Over a period of a year, I met up regularly with Tadashi. Tadashi was your average Japanese living in Australia: he was tired of living in Japan; he wanted to escape to a place with fresh opportunities and less pressure; he was idealistic but suspicious; he was open to new relationships, but closed to Christianity; and he was keen to make new friends, but not so keen to spend the bulk of his time with his fellow Japanese.
One Thursday lunch time as we munched on okonomiyaki, I asked him, “Tadashi, I always ask Japanese people important questions like ‘Do you believe in God?’ or ‘What happens when you die?’, and you know something? The answer is usually the same: ‘Shiran—I don’t know’. Why are Japanese not interested in finding answers to these important questions?”
Tadashi saw my distress. He took pity on me. “When Japanese say shiran, they don’t mean ‘I don’t know’; they mean ‘I don’t care’. Why should we care about God in this life? We can sort that question out when we die. Why worry about life after death when we are alive at this very moment?”
After almost 20 years of working with Japanese people, Tadashi’s insightful honesty was breathtaking. “But Tadashi, you care. Why is that?”
Smiling at me and holding his chopsticks, which were smothered in sauce and mayonnaise, he replied, “I care because I can see that you care. It’s because I know that you care about Jesus, the Bible, life, death and people that I care. It’s because these things matter to you that they now matter to me.”
I first met Tadashi at an English class. Within 24 hours, he was eating dinner at our house with some new Aussie friends. He regularly hung out at our place. We helped him find a job picking fruit. We helped his friends find jobs picking fruit. I introduced him to our kids’ school, where he became a volunteer teacher. He left his car in our garden when he returned to Japan for a wedding. We prayed with him when he realized his visa had expired. He moved in with us when he had nowhere else to go. We welcomed Tadashi unconditionally and independently of whether he ever decides to follow Christ or not.
We tried to care for Tadashi ninja-style, hoping that as we sacrificially cared for him, the lifeblood of our faith would also quietly creep up on him. Faith accompanied with action is life (Jas 2:17). Our sacrificial actions are an essential part of the main course in reaching Japanese for Christ, not just an appetizer. But expecting Tadashi to care about what we care about in a 10-minute Bible time at the tail end of a weekly English class, with the occasional invite to church, did not cut it; we needed to do more.
Tadashi and I started meeting up weekly for Bible study. We used the excellent resource Discovering Jesus through Asian Eyes (published by the Good Book Company). Tadashi had little interest in the first few chapters; he wanted to get straight to the point: “Who is Jesus?” Once he began to wrestle with this question, he noticed that most of our conversation was concentrated around the Bible. He now wanted to know “How can we trust the Bible?” His logic was straightforward enough: if the Bible is defunct, then the Jesus that Sam follows must be defunct too.
After a few months, it was time for Tadashi to return to Japan. He returned without putting his trust in the Jesus he had met in Australia.
But that isn’t the end of the story. We still ‘talk’ on Facebook. Just recently in the middle of a question about how to run an English class for a soccer team he coaches, he said, “By the way, I’ve kept thinking about God since I came back to Japan. I have a question about God: why did he make people with sin, if God made people? I think God could make perfect people. If God made perfect people, then he didn’t need to make heaven. Maybe God thought we need sins. But why? Is there some answer in the Bible? If there is, please tell me where it was written.”
It was a great question. But I knew we had talked about this before. When we had, he had listened and nodded, and I had been sure he had understood. He hadn’t. So we will talk about it again. But now he is the one asking the questions and driving the discussion.
He knows that I don’t have the answers to his questions; the answers are in the Bible. So he is looking to the Scriptures. I pray that he and many more Japanese might encounter the Lord Jesus as his saviour there.