(November 15, 2021) Robert McQuillan reminds readers of an ongoing challenge…
Every now and then, in ministering to Christians, I feel to quote Dr Toyohiko Kagawa (1888–1960) who not only wrote and taught about the teachings of Jesus Christ but lived them out even in a troubled society and world itself, often at great personal cost.
In 1938, in The Challenge of Redemptive Love he wrote declaring that the world was full of rebellion against God, that the human race has gone morally insane: it has lost sight of standards of integrity… that evil was proclaimed as good, and wrong is right… that class morality was not the least concerned for any other class. He could have been writing about 2021! (See Geri B’s Cancel, Condemn or Cherish?).
Kagawa likened this situation to that of the first century Roman Empire, adding the good news that ‘… but just the time when God, undismayed by the corruption of the human race, in order to reconcile man to himself, opened the way of redemptive love… Christ paid the price with his blood.’
He wrote much about the blindness of human corruption and rebellion against God, wanting every person to know about the one who allowed himself to be placed under the death penalty on the cross, paying the price of righteousness by a unique act of redemptive love. He would set an example by reaching out himself at great personal cost to the down and outs, to criminals, to the weary, to those shedding tears in distress, the needy around him.
And possibly this brilliant but ever so humble man of God’s greatest challenge was ‘Are you going about doing good… or just going about?’
It’s been some years now since I first discovered the writings and the lifestyle of this fearless servant of God and was strongly taken with this particular challenge… which symbolised the very lifestyle of this visionary who revered both Jesus and God’s word.
When one learns what he went through for Christ, what he did – suffered for his beliefs – for his beliefs, one can only pause, gulp and think ‘I could never have done that, been that, but… help me, Lord, to achieve something…’
This insightful Japanese avidly followed the teachings of Christ, believing that Christianity in action was the truth behind those Christian doctrines. As a young man attending Kobe Theological Seminary, he was so troubled by seminarians’ concern for the technicalities of religious doctrine that he would repeatedly refer to the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10).
In reality that parable demonstrates real Christianity in action. It’s about Christians being available to meet needs, and not expecting or demanding anything in return. And being willing to go further than the initial contact, to provide follow-up where needed.
Later in life, Toyohiko Kagawa once boldly dared to challenge his nation’s ‘godlike’ ruler, referring to scripture: ‘Emperor Hirohito, “Whosoever will be great among you… shall be the servant of all.” A ruler’s sovereignty, Your Majesty, is in the hearts of the people. Only by service to others can a man, or nation, be godlike.’
Going about doing good – real Christianity
That was indeed Toyohiko Kagawa’s own lifestyle – serving others. He became a successful businessman entrepreneur who influenced many, not only in Japan but also abroad, including Fletcher Jones, ‘Australia’s clothing king.’
Deeply concerned with people’s misery in life at home, he went around seeking how he could bless many and give them hope for a better future. He became known as the Apostle of Love and Social Injustice. Two of his great writings are A Grain Of Wheat and Songs From the Slums.
A social reformer, peace activist, political prisoner, evangelist and author, Toyohiko Kagawa is reported as saying: ‘I read in a book that a man called Christ went about doing good. It is very disconcerting to me that I am so easily satisfied with just going about.’
Now in these days of great needs around the world, that should really concern a lot of Christians. So many of us are indeed content with the status quo and miss out on God’s greater picture for our lives, skills and abilities. Carol Round’s article this month epitomises meeting needs around us (see An Invitation From Jesus).
Good Samaritan Christians
The Good Samaritan parable is indeed an outstanding example of going out there beyond the church walls… and, praise God, it seems that quite a few churches have bought into it despite lockdown and attendance limitations.
This parable is good news for those without hope, without a personal relationship with Christ and feeling that they have no one to turn to for assistance. Especially the down and outs, or the sick such as what Mama Lava wrote about her young son’s response/attitude regarding her If Today is the Last Day of Your Life, What are You Going to Do? challenge… ‘I’d visit people in the hospital with covid, who have nobody to sit with them… I’d switch places with someone sentenced to life in prison. I’d go out with abandon.’
Myself? Personally, I feel like Toyohiko Kagawa – not satisfied with just going about but desiring to go about doing good wherever and however I can with the Holy Spirit’s help. Such an attitude means going out of our way at times, going beyond the famous second mile (Matthew 5:41)!
And why? Because according to Jeremiah 29:11, God has a wonderful future organised for all who will seek his face, listen to his directions and go for it.
Toyohiko Kagawa’s life story is an incredible one. It certainly inspires me, as does (even more so) the example of Jesus – I’m never satisfied with just ‘going about!’ I want to be involved in whatever God has ordained for me. I’ll always be open to whatever new challenges he has for me both in general life and ministry itself. In a nutshell, this means that I desire to achieve what will bless others and be meaningful to the kingdom.
Focusing on being effective for Jesus
By the way, Maureen and I deliberately call our ministry of encouragement and inspiration Life Focus Ministries. Regularly – in mentoring, casual conversation, the ‘old preaching days’ – we would tell people, even non-Christians: ‘Life is a gift…focus on it and live it to the max! Don’t waste one day!’
Here’s our own first-up daily prayer: ‘Lord, let this day be effective for you through the Holy Spirit’s anointing and direction.’
Then we live the day as normal, not under any pressure, but being available for the Lord and, importantly, sensitive to his Holy Spirit, expecting some God-given opportunity to be not ‘just going about.’
This doesn’t mean going around being super-spiritual before everyone and Bible-bashing them into a false salvation or trying to force anyone to accept Christ.
Rather we just take every opportunity the Holy Spirit organises for us to meet people and simply bless them. Blessing – to us this means speaking a God-word, a kind word into people’s lives (even that ‘Thank you for serving me’ to supermarket personnel chit-chat that we’ve often written about before) and encouraging them – all through us being sensitive to the Spirit who can tell us where they’re at and what they need to hear.
I encourage every Christian to activate a lifestyle like Toyohiko Kagawa did as he followed the example of Jesus: ‘It is very disconcerting to me that I am so easily satisfied with just going about.’
Not enough to have ideals
In closing, I think of ‘Donald’, an entrepreneurial businessman who shared a concern with me… the world would term him as highly successful with everything going for him. His company is doing well, he has everything he needs – expensive home, lovely wife, great kids, luxury cars, connections and a great future.
But ‘Donald’ mentioned that he was been acutely aware that something was missing and I enquired about his faith. ‘Oh, I believe in Jesus… but if mere “going around” in this life before heaven is all there is to it, then what’s it all about? What are we here for?’
It was a delight to share Toyohiko Kagawa’s attitude and that I’d pray for the infilling of the Spirit to fill this seeker of truth and reality and that he’d be led into a purposeful life for Christ.
Dr Robert and Maureen McQuillan’s link are OnlinerConnect@gmail.com and Facebook (Scripture/other emphasi in this Onliner ours. Appreciated images/pics:Various general sources)