For the Love of Christ
“It is an unlikely friendship that ties the fates of war correspondent Kenji Goto and troubled loner Haruna Yukawa, the two Japanese hostages for which Islamic State militants demanded a $200 million ransom this week.
“Goto began working as a full-time war correspondent in 1996 and had established a reputation as a careful and reliable operator for Japanese broadcasters, including NHK.
"He understood what he had to do and he was cautious," said Naomi Toyoda, who reported with him from Jordan in the 1990s.
“Goto, who converted to Christianity in 1997, also spoke of his faith in the context of his job.
"I have seen horrible places and have risked my life, but I know that somehow God will always save me," he said in a May article for the Japanese publication Christian Today. But he told the same publication that he never risked anything dangerous, citing a passage in the Bible, "Do not put the Lord your God to the test."”
The above quote was copied from a news article posted on the internet regarding the two citizens of Japan held as hostage by Islamic State. When I ask God to show me what to write each day for the blog article most usually I will have an inner sense of inspiration regarding a Biblical theme or remember something that God has recently revealed to me through a Bible passage or by some event in my life. Today this news story came to my attention because of the reference quoted above regarding the faith of Goto.
The article explains the situation regarding why the men have been abducted. Haruna Yukawa is a friend of Kenji Goto. Yukawa had been following a dream of becoming a military contractor after going through some life changing experiences of losing his wife to cancer and going through bankruptcy. He asked Goto to help him with safe contacts in Syria and while Goto returned to Japan Yukawa disappeared. Goto returned to seek information on his friend and the next information on either was from a video published by Islamic State demanding ransom or death for the two friends.
I find writing of this situation very difficult. The difficulty does not lie in the fact that a brother, and possibly two, are being threatened with death because of their faith. The difficulty lies in expressing the Biblical teaching regarding such a situation without sounding pious or religious. When our Savior, Jesus Christ, died on the cross the purpose of the Jewish religious leaders was to rid themselves of a teacher who was presenting a way of love that would essentially destroy their religious system. Jesus taught a non-judgemental approach to life that turned judgment on its ear and internalized it. Rather than judging others Jesus taught to look within, repent, and live a life of love; including the love of enemies.
Goto is kneeling in a photo published by Islamic State with a knife wielding man threatening him because he is willing to live out the life of a follower of Christ. I do not see this as relating in any way to religion. This scene is not about Islam threatening Christianity. That may be the reaction of many who call themselves Christian. There are rallies across Europe against the perceived threat of Islam invading Europe. Those rallies are only an expression of the same spirit that allowed the rise of Hitler with his Aryan purity teaching.
What I see here demonstrated is the love of Christ expressed by Kenji Goto because he loves Christ enough to care for his friend even into dangerous circumstances. The fact that he could do this is because he fully realizes that there is no death for the follower of Christ. Death is impossible for a believer in Jesus, the Son of God. For those who put their faith in Jesus death has been fully conquered. Yes, we are taught by the Scriptures to flee persecution; but we do so because of wisdom not because of fear.
There is a major event that takes place when a person converts to “Christianity” and decides to become a follower of Jesus Christ. It is impossible to explain to anyone who has not decided to follow Christ. In any other decision to convert to a religion one is changing to another life style or belief system. When one decides to follow Jesus one is deciding to follow a living person who then becomes daily present to direct and guide one’s life. This daily presence happens because the Holy Spirit has been poured out upon the world and He has become present in the life and heart of all believers.
Even is the midst of this life threatening situation Kenji Goto and Haruna Yukawa are not alone.