Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Testimony of my spiritual transformation (Part 2)- how a decisive step to practice headcovering breaks my oriental syncretic mindset

"Truth" in Japanese

Spiritual transformation is a gradual process which every believer has passed through in his/her faith journey. I must say, however, that nothing caused me to go this way so fast but the practice of headcovering. It is like an accelerating voltage! There is such an obvious and on-going transformation in me that I cannot help but praising God for this great spiritual surgery.

In this post, I am going to tell you how God has been breaking my old man and creating in me a new spirit which is called a spirit of truth-seeking.

Japanese people like to have wa among themselves . The concept of wa is defined as follows;

Wa () is a Japanese cultural concept usually translated into English as "harmony". It implies a peaceful unity and conformity within a social group, in which members prefer the continuation of a harmonious community over their personal interests. Wa is considered integral to Japanese society, and derives from traditional Japanese family values. Individuals who break the idea of wa to further their own purposes are brought in line either overtly or covertly, by reprimands from a superior or by their family or colleagues tacit disapproval. (from Wikipedia)
And I also want to add that, the members prefer the continuation of wa over the truth. We tend to think it is better to be in harmony than to be split over the difference of opinion, even if it means we have to sacrifice the truth. If you look into the religious history of Japan, you will be surprised that even different gods can co-inhabit. It is called Shinbutsu-shūgō (神仏習合 lit. "syncretism of kami and buddhas").

 “When Buddhism was introduced through China in the late Asuka period (6th century), rather than discard the old belief system, the Japanese tried to reconcile it with the new, assuming both were true. As a consequence, Buddhist temples (, tera) were attached to local kami shrines (神社, jinja) and vice versa and devoted to both kami and Buddha.” (from Wikipedia)
The fox guardians at Fushimi Inari Shrine source

Wa might not be all together wrong, but in the light of the Gospel, I realized that there are some elements which are not compatible with the Bible truth. If Jesus had acted according to the spirit of wa, there never occurred any confrontations or conflicts with the Pharisees and Lawyers. And He could have avoided the death of the Cross.

Authentic truth has exclusiveness in its nature. If something is true, another thing is false. If Jesus is the truth (John 14:6), another figures are false. Oriental religions, on the other hand, are generally embracive. I did not have any problem in worshiping kami in my paternal grandparents’ house and buddhas in my mother’s side grandparents’. I also used to go to visit shaman who was worshiping the god of fire in my childhood.

shinto priest source

Encounter with sister Jessica

Through headcovering movement site, I started to interact with sister Jessica in Arizona. I was attracted to her immediately and I wondered why I felt this way. Then I realized that she has something which I don’t have or I am lacking, that is the spirit of truth-seeking. The practice of headcovering is, in  fact, my first visible and public demonstration of what I believe to be truth and this decisive action dramatically changed me from inside. No wonder I was drawn to a sister like Jessica.

She is very soft-spoken but as for Biblical truth, she is straightforward and clear in her sayings. I was amazed by her eagerness to investigate the truth in the Bible and asked her how she was doing her Bible study. Then she kindly shared with me about her personal Bible study methods with many pictures (you can see her methods here).

Her truth-seeking spirit has influenced me and challenged me deeply. I felt my thought-world has been transformed. I often said to Him, “Oh God, something is going on in me so rapidly after I put on headcovering. I cannot grasp it all but I want to trust You to deal with me according to Your design.”

Exposure to various truth-seeking people

With this renewed mind, I started to see the world and the people differently. God opened my eyes to recognize and locate various truth-seeking people who have already gone far ahead of me.

Last week, for example, I watched the video; A Response to Mary Mohler on Christian Headcovering (here) and I read the discussions in the comment section. “Wow!” I exclaimed. “They are all truth-seeking people! They lecture, make videos, leave comments and exchange opinions because they all love the Bible truth!” Though I don’t share Sister Mary Mohler’s (Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) position on head covering, I love her and respect her because she is also a keen truth-seeker of the Bible. 

And thus I started to see that people are gathering around the Truth and not vice versa. Humans are not central but the Truth of the Bible is. This is a new world to me. This is the world where God’s people reside and talk. And I love to be part of this God’s community, His universal church body.

Ladies, this is my testimony of spiritual transformation. It is on-going like a living stream! I am so grateful for this change and I want to follow the footsteps of those who have gone ahead of me. May the Spirit of Truth fill our soul and mind “till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ (Eph 4:13).” Amen.


Jessica R said...

Dear Kinuko,
When I read the kind words you wrote about me, I felt full of thankfulness to have known such a dear, sweet sister such as yourself! I'm so happy to hear that my "truth seeking" has inspired you; though I never would have thought you to be lacking in this area yourself, since the articles you publish are obviously so full of a desire to know the truth!

Thank you for telling us about your personal experiences in this article in regards to your spiritual transformation. Yes, headcovering does influence us to change dramatically, because it causes us to make a clear statement to those around us of what we believe; we can't hide it anymore! I was especially intrigued by what you shared about Japanese religion and culture! These were things I never knew before. You are so right, when you say that Jesus lifted up truth above harmony, when He confronted the religious leaders of His day with their un-truthful beliefs and practices! Thank you for reminding us of that!
Your friend,

Anonymous said...

I think Japanese people do not prefer exclusiveness in any issue.For them it means to be aggressive to others. Maybe because of this point of view,they are difficult to accept gospel as truth. To accept gospel as truth means also deny other 's faith as false..I do'nt think that to be a christian means to be agressive to others with other faith. It's only problem between you and God.So I think everybody should be a truth seeker for their own. Some other person can testify God,but it it yourself who have to decide to accept Him or not.
Kinuko, reading your article I felt that I have to pray more for our nation.
Thank you so much.
Sanae from Japan

Lily said...

Jessica, thank you for your kind words. I was so moved by your words (in the comment section of your blog). You said as follows;
“I’m a follower of no one: not Luther, not Calvin, nor anybody else (though certainly we can learn from those before us, and be inspired by their lives). I am a follower of JESUS CHRIST. HIS Words are the Words of eternal life, and I want to know what HE has to say.”
I’m a follower of no one: not Luther, not Calvin, nor anybody else. I am a follower of JESUS CHRIST. Amen!
I also want to quote your comment here so that other ladeis can receive insight as well.
“Recently, my sweet daughter gave me a King James Bible as a gift. This Bible does not include notes or comments, though it does have references and translations of difficult words (difficult, at least sometimes, for us modern English speakers). I’m finding that I LOVE reading the Bible without all those comments at the bottom of the page. Before, whenever I came to a difficult section, I would look down at the notes to see what the authors of my study Bible had to say. Now, when I come to a hard to understand part, I just think about it extra hard, I look up the suggested Bible references, and I jot down the verse for my notebook. This way of studying is so much better! I still love my study Bible, and the notes ARE helpful, I think. But, I want to know what the Bible itself has to say, more than I want to know what someone else thinks about a particular passage.”
I used to rely on the Bible commentaries and study Bibles too much. One of the reasons why I was so hesitant to start head covering practice was that I rather relied on man’s wisdom than God’s wisdom. Like you, now I am reading NKJV Bible which does not include notes or comments and I am receiving grace every day! I realized I did not have faith that I can read the Bible by myself! I am so grateful for this new discovery. I am so grateful for you, Jessica. You are a living inspiration for me! Kinuko

Lily said...

Sanae, I do appreciate that you are standing with me and examining this crucial issue together. When I came back from Korea after baptism, this issue which you mentioned, caused inner agony and crisis.

The basic attitude of evangelical Korean Christians were more straightforward and simple, whereas many Japanese Christians who I met were “soft” and vague in their behaviors and sayings. I did not know which "way" I should follow.

One of my relatives told me, “Why can’t you be more mature like sister X ? She is a Christian in the church but she also respects Japanese religious customs and offer incents (in front of the Budda alter) when she goes to attend funeral. She is a good Christian but it seems to me that you are acting like a fanatic.”

My college in Japan was super liberal in theology and this made my spiritual condition even worse and confusing. There were inter-faith gatherings and dialogues. Initially, their attitude looked more merciful and “Christ-like” than the Bible-believing Christians. I realized that Christian liberalism and the spirit of wa might have some common points.

As you told me, we testify Christ but not in a forceful or aggressive manner.

And then,,,this morning, I was thinking about the behavior of John the Baptist. As you know, he openly spoke against the sin of King Herod (“Because John had said to Herod, ‘It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” Mark 6:18). I asked myself, “Was his behavior polite or aggressive?” I think if John the Baptist had to live in Japan, he must have been ostracized and avoided by most of the people (both Christians and non-Christians.)

“What about people like John Knox, Martin Luther, George Braulock and Kanzo Uchimura? Weren’t they somehow ‘aggressive’? “ On the other hand, the Bible clearly teaches us “ If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peacefully with all men (Rom 12:18).” (Can anybody help me to understand this issue? Please feel free to share with me. Thank you!)

Sanae, why is it difficult for us Japanese Christians to share our faith with other Japanese? If you have any idea, please tell me.

This is my sincere desire to live according to Bible standard and I am willing to be corrected if there is anything un-biblical in my personal /collective customs and cultures. God bless you all!

Anonymous said...

Dear Kinuko, as for attending Buddihist's funeral,we face the same problem.One of my church member told me that first days of our church,they declined to offer incents to the alter,but later they changed their way to do it. It was because that declining to offer incents sometimes hurt dead person's family's feeling. At the funeral first thing we have to do is praying God for the dead ,then next..supporting and comforting left family,I think. (Maybe it's way of thinking that we should not 'use' other's funeral as oppotunity of testifying our faith.) But I also feel conflict.
The Bible words Mattew 7.12 says 'Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you,do ye even so to them,for this is the law and the prophets.'
This words sometimes cause conflict in my mind,especislly as for sharing gospel.
I can testify,but can never force other to do something.
Why it is difficult for us to share gospel with other Japanese.I think one of the reasons is that they feel that they do not need it. Many of Japanese think that they are diligent, upright,not bad people,it maybe right. Human goodness often separates people from God.They are apt to be satisfied by their own efforts.For them it is hard to notice that they also need God.
After I met with Jesus, some people evaluate that I am not Japanese-like person.
I do'nt know what they really mean, but God is beyond nationalities. May God let us to keep on seeking His truth.Let's pray for our nation!
Sanae from Japan

Lily said...

Dear Sanae, thank you so much for your wonderful insight. I always appreciate your reflections. Now let me share with you about my journey regarding “pagan religious customs and Christianity”.

When I believed Jesus Christ, I was so afraid to tell my family and relatives that I can no longer worship or offer incense to the Buddhist/Shintoist altar.I did not want to hurt their feelings.

So, whenever we went to grandparents’ house and worshiped idol in front of the altar, I was hiding in the tolilet, pretending I was occupied (just like Gideon was hiding in the winepress. Judg 6:11).

I did not have guts to confess my new faith in Christ. But finally I realized that I could not keep hiding like this forever, and that something must be done about it. So, I collected all my courage and told in front of my grandparents and other relatives that I cannot clap hands nor worship in of this altar any more because I became a Christian.

I also told Jesus, “Jesus, from now on till I reach You in heaven, I would not worship nor offer anything to other gods. Please help me! Please help me!”

Because I did not enter Buddhist temple/Shinto shrine anymore, naturally such a behavior caused troubles and shame on those around me. But I asked God to give me wisdom how I can show them that I do respect and love them even though I don't worship their gods.

For example, when my great-uncle (whom I loved so much) died, I did not attend rituals which were held in the temple. Instead I was waiting outside of the temple.

And then I joined them AFTER they finished these religious ceremonies and I comforted my great-antie and hugged her. I also decided to write a letter of comfort to her on the anniversary of her husband’s death, which I have continued for 10 years now. And I am doing the same things to other relatives.

Initially, my relatives considered my behavior to be fanatical or disrespectful, but thankfully, now most of them don’t think like that.

Sanae, thank you so much again for sharing with me.

“Why it is difficult for us to share gospel with other Japanese.I think one of the reasons is that they feel that they do not need it. Many of Japanese think that they are diligent, upright,not bad people,it maybe right. Human goodness often separates people from God.They are apt to be satisfied by their own efforts.For them it is hard to notice that they also need God.”

Very accurate insight, Sanae! I totally agree with you. Let us continue to pray for our fellowman!
With love, Kinuko

Irina Glazkova said...

Dear Kinuko and Sanae,
10 years ago I visited Japan. I went to a Shintoist shrine in Sapporo. I'll never forget wide passes that were reserved for the spirits while people had to walk on narrow trails. I remember how I felt uneasy while we were on the tour in the shrine. We had a camera with film inside, the only photograph that we were able to develop was at the entrance of the shrine. When we left the shrine, I felt the relief.
Today I was contemplating on the subject of idolatry. I revelation 2:20, Jesus rebukes churches for forcing idolatry on His servants. We have to be very careful Satan is always o the prowl.
Today our church had prayer conference, we learned that Japan has social phenomenon hikikomori. Japan is prosperous, but there is spiritual hunger. We also learned that it's much easier to reach women and children. We spent 3 hours learning about prayer need for Japan and praying.
With love, Irina

Lily said...

Dear Irina, how we were glad to hear this! Thank you so much for your prayers. Please send our best regards to your dear brothers and sisters in your church.

Your observation about Shinto shrine is insightful. As you told us, we need to be careful about idol worship. This morning, as I was reading 2 Kings 17, I learned how God hates idol worship.

"You shall not fear other gods, nor bow down to them nor serve them nor sacrifice to them (2 Kings 17:35 b)."

"for they served idols, of which the LORD had said to them, 'You shall not do this thing (2 Kings 17:12)."

'Japan is prosperous, but there is spiritual hunger"---that's right, Irina. I think Sanae knows much better than I about the issues such as hikikomori in Japan. Again, thank you so much for your love and prayers for us! Kinuko

Anonymous said...

Thank you,Irina for sharing us your experience.You have come to our country! In Japan people has custom of visiting Shinto shrine on new year season to make a wish.And many of them think that is Japanese culture.For them, it's not problem of faith. After I believe Jesus,I never worship shinto alter at shrine.
Japanese people also know that life is uncertain.They may go to shrine to calm down their uncertain feeling.
Japanese society seems to demand people,especially workers to be perfect,good ones.Japanese help each other,but do not like to depend on each other.Because of that Japan may became prosperous,but when you are in need,you may feel it is difficult to ask others to support you. I think it is one reason that causes hikikomori.
Thank you for learning and praying for Japan.Please say hello to your church members! Sanae

Anonymous said...

Dear Kinuko, I came across your website through the Headcoveringmovement.com website. I've been following along with your discussions with the other sisters here and on their blogs. I wanted to let you know that I shared this particular post with my children that I'm homeschooling and my one college aged son. We had an interesting talk about the Japanese culture especially in how the Japanese people worship and also how it affects family. We are from the U.S., and my one son said that this is very similar to what is going on here in the states. The phrase "tolerance" is a huge buzz word being used in the schools and colleges. We don't want to make anyone feel bad by disagreeing with them or making them feel as if they are being condemned. We need to be tolerant. This is the current philosophy of the world. I agree with you that as Christians, we need to be constantly seeking after the truth (Jesus) and following what the Bible says. This will definitely lead to conflict with the saved and the unsaved alike. Even now, the topic of headcovering is a perfect example of how the world's philosophies have leaked into our churches and thus affected our beliefs in everything from headship, men's and women's roles in the family, divorce, respect for our parents, children taking their parents to court,...the list goes on and on. It all begins with departing from The Bible and what it teaches. So, thankyou, for being so open and honest with what God is teaching you and showing you through His Word. :-) Many blessings to you! Ruthie

Lily said...

Dear Sister Ruthie, thank you so much for your comment! I was so encouraged indeed. Ruthie, what you (and your son) shared with me regarding the issue of "tolerance" is vitally important and I like to dig this issue more. I might make a special post about this particular topic in the future, if the Lord willing. Please give me your insights and ideas! Thank you so much. Please send my best regards to your family.Kinuko

Anonymous said...

Sorry I didn't get back to you right away, Kinuko. I don't know how much insight I can give you, but I would be willing to help. Most of my information comes from what my husband and sons are dealing with in their jobs and colleges. I will definitely keep checking back though :-) Many blessings to you. Ruthie

Lily said...

Dear Ruthie, I do appreciate your (and your husband/sons') insights! How wonderful that we are God's family and we are being edified together in Christ! Kinuko

Cantus said...

Hi. I'm a Catholic with an interest in the state of the Church in the Far East. It was wonderful to hear your story, Kinuko. I lament the fate of the 16th Century missions - if only things had turned out differently. Still, it's encouraging to see that there are believers despite that.

You touched on the attitude of the Japanese to religion, and how it can make it difficult to proclaim the Gospel boldly. While I am far from Japanese, I did hear a story about a convert whose husband saw no problem with being a Shinto priest, despite being married to a Catholic, having their son raised as a Catholic, and seeming to be positive towards Catholicism. That just seems shocking to me.

I think the key here is the influence of Judaism on Christianity. A huge part of the Old Testament is nothing more than warnings to Israel to worship nothing but God Himself, followed by Israel ignoring those warnings, and ruin coming upon them because of this. In the West, we've all become intimately familiar with the idea that worshipping God means breaking completely with idols, that if one follows Christ, one cannot follow Baal, or mammon, or anyone else for that matter. It's become second nature to us, to the point that we just don't think about it any more. This isn't the case in Asia, and you can see the results here, with people just not seeing any contradiction between competing religions. It's the scandal of exclusivity yet again.

All in all, it was fun! Thanks.

Lily said...

Dear Cantus,

Warm greetings in the name of Jesus! Thank you so much for your visit and for your comments. I was delighted to read your messages.

",,,worshipping God means breaking completely with idols, that if one follows Christ, one cannot follow Baal, or mammon, or anyone else for that matter." I think this is a vital point and I pray that this kind of attitude will be deeply rooted in me and in the hearts of other Asian Christians as well.

I am so grateful that you are interested in the state of the Church in the Far East.Please pray for us. We do need your prayer! Thank you so much. Kinuko

Anonymous said...

Ms.Cantus, your thought is very insightful. In Japan people are apt to think that faith is only personal thing, not absolute truth,and we should not discuss on it.
This way of thinking maybe useful to avoide disputing,but on the other hand it makes us difficult to share gospel as truth.Some says that Japanese is so familier with polytheism,so they are often wary about monotheism as intolerance.
I heard from my cathoric friend that priest of her church admit to offer incents to the Buddist's altar as a cultural custom.But he said that she should not pray Buddha in her heart,she should pray only our Lord.This kind of guidance is not uncommon in Japanese church(not only cathoric but protestant/evangelical,too).
To have strong faith does not always mean to be good in Japan.Please pray for our country.
Sanae from Japan