The rejected one

From Philip Yancey:

Japanese novelist Shusaku Endo’s story reads like the plot of one of his novels. As a child in Manchuria he had lived as an alien, a despised Japanese occupier. Returning to Japan and converting to Catholicism along with his mother, he suffered once again the anguish of an alien. The Christian church comprised less than one percent of the population. Classmates bullied him for his association with a Western religion. World War II intensified this sense of estrangement: Endo had always looked to the West as his spiritual homeland, but these were the people now vaporizing the cities of Japan.

After the war he traveled to France to study French Catholic novelists such as Francois Mauriac and George Bernanos. Yet as one of the first Japanese overseas exchange students, and the only one in Lyons, he was spurned this time on account of race, not religion. The Allies had cranked out a steady stream of anti-Japanese propaganda, and Endo found himself the target of racial abuse from fellow Christians. “Slanty-eyed gook,” some called him.

Before returning to Japan from his studies in Europe, Endo visited Palestine in order to research the life of Jesus, and while there he made a transforming discovery: Jesus too knew rejection. More, Jesus’ life was defined by rejection. His neighbors laughed at him, his family questioned his sanity, his closest friends betrayed him, and his fellow citizens traded his life for that of a common criminal. Throughout his ministry, Jesus purposely moved among the rejected.

This new insight into Jesus hit Endo with the force of revelation. From the faraway vantage point of Japan he had viewed Christianity as a triumphant, Constantinian faith. He had studied the Holy Roman Empire and the glittering Crusades, had admired the grand cathedrals of Europe, had dreamed of living in a nation where one could be a Christian without disgrace. Now, studying the Bible in its homeland, he saw that Jesus himself had not avoided “dis-grace.”

Jesus himself came as the Suffering Servant, as depicted by the prophet Isaiah: “Despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces.” Surely this Jesus, if anyone, could understand the rejection Endo himself was going through.

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Filed under Courage, Determination, Inspiration, Suffering

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