Tuesday, June 13, 2006

"Silence" by Shusaku Endo Review, Part 5

The entire book of 1 Peter is written with the sufferings of believers under persecution in mind. A representative verse from the book is 4:19: “Therefore let those who suffer according to God's will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.” And 1 Peter 5:9-10:
Resist him (the devil), firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.
A reading of the whole of the book informs us that persecution is to be expected by believers in Christ:
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when His glory is revealed (1 Peter 4:12-13).
Add to this testimony the weight of other passages like Hebrews chapters 11-13, 2 Tim. 2:3-4 and 4:18, and it is an insurmountable challenge to attempt to conform the conduct of either Rodrigues or the Kakure Christians to these commands of Holy Scripture and thus to commend said conduct.
This leads us logically to a concern for the very existence of the Church of Jesus Christ in Japan. It is indisputable that the shoguns of this time period carried out perhaps the most successful repressions of the Christian faith in human history. The very idea of the Kakure Christians was to go into hiding where they would be examined less often, to keep their practices secret, to go through with external formalities of Buddhist, and thus to preserve their traditions from annihilation. What if they had not? What if, to a man, they had refused to trample the fumie and become extinct? We see a few examples in the book of a lack of trust in the providence of God, both on the part of the Kakures and of Rodrigues, such as when the Kakures say this to Rodrigues: “…if you die, the Japanese church dies with you,” and when Rodrigues, when asked what the two (unbeknownst to them) future martyrs Mokichi and Ichizo should do when they arrive as instructed at the magistrate’s office and are asked to trample on the fumie, Rodrigues responds “‘Trample! Trample!’” Let us ask ourselves for a moment what would happen if indeed almost all Christians were martyred for their faith in Japan. Can we believe that God would allow the light to be extinguished forever? Is He impatient or unable to raise up His people to go as missionaries and to rise up from among the Japanese people again at some point in the future? And if He did not, on what basis would we blame Him? Let us part ways with these humanistic ways of thinking and recall that it is our responsibility to follow God’s commands and God’s responsibility to take care of what He oversees.

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