Given Rodrigues’ instability of faith and felt purpose, it is easy to understand how he is easily turned to apostasy, which is perhaps the most apparent and long-standing idea of the book. The idea of the status of the apostate is perhaps a difficult one to analyse in the New Testament. A highly relevant passage is Mark 8:34-38:
And he called to him the crowd with his disciples and said to them, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel's will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his life? For what can a man give in return for his life? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels."
The passage’s relevance for our discussion seems to center around the meaning of “ashamed.” A search into its other occurrences in the New Testament reveals that it is used in such contexts as
1:16, 2 Tim 1:8, 1:12, and 1:16, which discuss openness and boldness about the Gospel of Christ. The same word is used in Heb 2:11 and 11:16, with the meaning that God is not ashamed of His people. Were not the Kakure Christians faced with the difficult choice of carrying the Name of Christ in an “adulterous and sinful generation” in which they surely lived versus showing an outward disdain for Christ in exchange for their lives? Could a Kakure Christian say with the Apostle Paul, “…I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes”? Did they not choose to live apart from the testimony of their Christian lives rather than refuse to bend their neck to the wicked governmental authorities? Rom.
Without piling it on too thick vis-à-vis the Kakure Christians, who had their entire lives at stake as simple people, uneducated in the Scriptures, let us turn to Rodrigues, a seminary-trained member of the Society of Jesus and a missionary dedicated to bringing Jesus to his target people group. So quickly Rodrigues succumbs to a defeatist attitude, poor methodology, and doubts about his faith, and to what direct personal suffering could he attribute these things? Certainly his overseas trip to Macao and to Japan were difficult and physically taxing, certainly he suffered from boredom and idleness while in forced isolation to avoid discovery and later after arrest in sometimes solitary confinement, yet we find his confession at the prison near Nagasaki that he feared he was growing soft from the preferential treatment he received. We must conclude that, in his own words, “he had come to realise that it was against his own faith that he had fought,” and “I wonder if all this talk about love is not, after all, just an excuse to justify my own weakness.” Endo clearly wishes for us, his readers, to consider the plight of the weak and the apostates under the watchful care of the crucified, suffering Jesus, yet in what way can we apply the lessons of the struggles to hold to the very faith itself that Rodrigues experienced to our own thinking? With humility, thanking the Lord that we have not, for the most part, undergone similar “fiery trials,” and asking the Lord to strengthen us in the event that such trials are in our future, must we not hold to the Scriptural exhortation to stand firm in the faith, to resist the devil, and to provide a good testimony to those evil persons who cause us to suffer and who serve the devil? Surely we must resist the temptation to remold Jesus or His Church in the image of the unfaithful, no matter how “merciful” it might seem to do so.