Tag Archives: 1 corinthians 13

Do I love Japan? Lust exploits, love protects.

So these last few weeks I’ve been thinking through the differences between lust and love and asking myself the tough question ‘Do I love Japan or is it just lust.’

Today I continue those thoughts with what I think is probably the biggest difference between the two:

Lust exploits. Love protects.

Or to quote Benjamin Nolot,

“Lust sees vulnerability as an opportunity to exploit, but love sees it as a chance to protect.”

When you think about it, this distinction is pretty much the basis for all (OK, a lot of) our books and movies. Villain sees a vulnerability that he can exploit for his advantage even if it involves taking the lives of others. Hero sees that vulnerability as an opportunity to defend those people even though it might mean laying down their life/lives.

Now I’ve only lived in Japan for about two years, but I’ve seen enough to know there are many vulnerable people here. Many ways to exploit them, but also many ways to protect them.

Now I know I said this wasn’t a post about sexual lust, but the exploitation of vulnerable women is something that has really been burning into my heart of late and Japan feels like it is full of vulnerable women being exploited when they should be being protected.

And the thing with all these points is that it is easy (or at least easier) to simply stop at the not-lusting stage. That’s what the pharisees did and Jesus hated them for it.

What I mean is it’s tempting to think that the best thing to do with all the sex on sale in Japan is to turn a blind eye. Don’t look. Protect your purity. Guard your heart.

Now I totally get the importance of guarding your heart. The Bible is clear on that:

“More than anything else guard your heart. For from it flow the well-springs of life.”

I have ignored the seriousness of that command too many times, and paid the price. Purity of heart is like low body fat: difficult to achieve, easy to lose. And it doesn’t get easier with age. The fight is, as they say, real.

But there are also plentiful commands in the Bible about protecting others, especially those who are vulnerable and those who are being exploited. I am meant to fight for both the purity of my heart and the protection of those who are hurting.

If merely avoiding sinning yourself was the highest morality possible then Jesus Christ would not have become known as ‘friend of sinners.’ But he did, and for a good reason: he was.

Jesus was willing to stand between an angry mob and a woman caught in the act of adultery. His love demanded that he did, because whilst those holding the stones were motivated by lust, seeking to exploit her vulnerability, Jesus was motivated by love, and love protects.

So I don’t think it’s enough for me, as a man, to simply avoid the parts of Japan where I know temptations to exploit women lie. Love demands that I protect those women, not just turn a blind eye.

What that looks like, I don’t know yet. Maybe something like this move by Simon Guillebaud.

Whatever the case, it is clear to me that this question, ‘Do I love Japan or is it just lust?’ isn’t just about how I feel. The answer will be determined by how I live.

Maybe the question I’ve been asking is a bit off. Maybe I shouldn’t ask, ‘Do I love Japan?’ but, ‘Will I love Japan?’


Do I love Japan, or is it just lust?

Chase After Love

I mentioned in my last post the question of whether I genuinely love Japan or whether I simply lust after Japan. I get that’s a slightly strange statement so let me explain what I mean.

This is something I’ve been thinking about ever since a conversation I had with a Scottish friend last Summer. He’s lived in Japan for about nine years, so he’s seen a fair bit of life here.

We were hanging out in Starbucks (don’t judge me, it’s a convenient meeting spot) and on the table near us was another Westerner, chatting with a Japanese girl. My friend overheard him whilst he was waiting in line and afterwards told me that the guy had been boasting about how much he made teaching, and how he had lots of money for ‘play.’ The guy’s tone made it clear that he was talking more ‘playboy’ than ‘playmobile.’

Anywho, afterwards we were talking about that whole subject. Not so much the sex-industry in Japan, but more the fact that some people come to Japan with the sole purpose of getting what they can and then leaving when they’ve had their fill. In other words, they come to Japan driven by lust, not love.

And that made me remember this post my friend wrote, based on teaching by Benjamin Nolot (one of the folk who head up Exodus Cry) on the difference between love and lust.

You should definitely read the whole post, but here’s the main points:

  • Lust subverts our calling. Love fulfills our calling.
  • Lust exploits. Love protects.
  • Lust consumes. Love pursues.
  • Lust seeks instant gratification. Love waits.

When it comes to human relationships these differences are devastating. And I think the principles apply more broadly as well.  I can be tempted to view Japan with lust, rather than love. I can be tempted to join the ranks of those who come to get their fill of Japan, when I’m meant to be here to pour myself out for Japan.

And so these last few months I’ve been wondering about my motives for being in here. Do I love Japan, or is it just lust?

Because I have to be honest here: I’m no better than that guy in Starbucks. As they say, “There but for the grace of God go I.” And that’s a grace that I need to have continually pouring into my life. And a grace that I need to be continually working out in my life.

And so I think this is an important question to ask. And not just for me, but for all of us, wherever we are. Are our actions, our words, our plans driven by love for the people around us, or are we motivated by a desire to get what we can?

So in my next few posts I will go through those points, thinking through how loving Japan looks different to lusting after Japan, and hopefully also helping you think through how you can better love those around you.

The hardest part of learning Japanese? Having Love.

My last post was about applying lessons from Rocky to language learning, and whilst there is much more the Italian Stallion has to teach about learning Japanese, today I want to share a language learning principle from the Bible that has been impressed on me these last few weeks.

It’s fair to say this is the most difficult aspect of learning Japanese (or any language), and it also happens to be the most important:

Having love

For folk like me, fighting away in the hope of becoming fluent in a foreign language (or at least close enough to blag it), there is a verse in the bible that hits like a brutal sucker punch to the gut,

“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.”

Or to paraphrase:

A Japanese gong, is still a gong.

A Japanese bell

Photo by Suguru Yamamoto on Creative Commons (original)

Which means that all of my endeavours to master Japanese –– all the hours I pour into memorising vocab, all the ink I spill practising kanji, all the Rocky movies I watch dubbed into Japanese (hey, it counts as study!) –– it will be totally useless if I don’t also work on having love.

Actually that’s not true. It won’t be useless. It’ll be really useful for doing stuff like offending people and screwing up friendships.

Because if I’m honest, I’m pretty much a master of using words to negative effect. Sarcastic snipes? Expert level. Jokes that get a cheap laugh at someone’s expense? Nailed it. Twisting words so that I don’t have to listen to a genuine grievance against me? Piece. Of. Cake.

And none of that is caused by a lack in my English abilities. It’s not like I mean to speak kind, affirming, encouraging words and get mixed up. No, I say what I mean, and I mean what I say. And often what I mean to say is mean.

And at those moments I am a nothing more than a resounding gong.

I can trick myself into thinking that the main thing hindering me from making a positive difference in Japan is my lack of language skills. When in fact the main hinderance is the same thing that hindered me back in the UK:

Not having love

The gong quote comes just before the famous ‘Love is…’ passage, where Paul explains what having love looks like. It makes for quite an unexpected set of criteria for assessing language ability.

Love is patient

Love is kind

Love does not envy

Love does not boast

Love is not proud

Love does not dishonour others

Love is not self-seeking

Love is not easily angered

Love keeps not record of wrongs

Love does not delight in evil

Love rejoices with the truth

Love always protects

Love always trusts

Love always hopes

Love always perseveres

Now listening to a recording of myself speaking Japanese, and having my teacher dissect all my faults was pretty painful. But reading through that list of the attributes of love, and reflecting on how I use my words . . .

Seems like I need another training montage!

And like Rocky I also need a good team to encourage me in my training (seriously, you could write a book on lessons in Japanese learning from the Rocky films). And not just me, but anyone who is trying to master a foreign language. Especially if we’re doing it in order to tell people about the love of God.

So if you’re studying Japanese, etc then don’t forget this key principle. And if you’re encouraging folk in their studies make sure you remind us of the foundational lesson we need to be mastered by.

Don’t be a gong: have love.

Lessons from Japan: Sometimes Loving Children Looks Like Being a Horse

In case you weren’t aware, back in July I went out to Tokyo as part of a ‘Kids Gospel’ team. We hooked up with churches and ran clubs with them throughout the week where we taught the kids some English gospel songs and then performed them at a concert on the Saturday.

At the first church we went to there was one girl, Sara,  who decided early on that my role on the team was mainly to give her piggy back rides – or in Japanese, “be a horse!” which makes much more sense to as a concept, but hey. So every time we took a break from teaching songs or playing games I would find her tugging on my arm, asking me to crouch down so she could jump on.

Me, being jumped on by a large number of small Japanese children

Now she was a cute little girl, even by Asian standards (it is a well acknowledged fact that Asian children are the cutest on the planet although there is debate as to whether Japan or Korea tops the list) meaning that I was initially fairly helpless to refuse her requests for piggy backs. And I enjoyed it. For the first 15 times.

But towards the end of the week I was tiring of constantly running around with a 7-year-old hanging off my neck and my patience was starting to run thin. I would still “be a horse” but my horse impressions were becoming increasingly Eeyore-like.

But on the Thursday evening I was planning the team devotions for the morning I and had the thought of looking at 1 Corinthians 13 –  you know the passage, it’s the classic wedding reading, ‘Love is…’ In particular I was struck by the truth that ‘love is patient.’ As a team we were committed to modelling for the children God’s love and so I realised that I would need to demonstrate this sort of patient love to Sara, and the other kids, otherwise, as 1 Corinthians 13 reminds us, I would be ‘nothing.’ (I had already resigned myself to the fact that no matter no loving I was, when it came to singing I would always be a ‘clanging gong’.)

So, Friday morning arrived, we looked at and prayed through Paul’s exhortations to love and went into the church hall. After about 2 minutes Sara arrived and about 12 seconds after that she was asking me to “be a horse.” So I did.

By the end of Friday I was exhausted, having lost count of the number of times I had carried Sara around the hall. Not to mention the other kids who also wanted in on the fun.

Later I was chatting to one of the missionaries who works at the church and she mentioned how much Sara had been jumping on me. Then she told me that it was possibly because Sara had no Father and so she didn’t often get the chance to play with men.

In that moment I was profoundly struck by the opportunity that I almost missed. Not an opportunity for me, but for Sara. For me, Sara was becoming a chore, giving her piggybacks was something I had to endure. For Sara, I was a chance to enjoy childhood, getting piggybacks was an experience for her to treasure.

The passage from Corinthians says that love is not just patient but also that love is ‘not self-seeking.’ I had missed that. I saw these ‘in-between’ moments as dead time for me to get past. I didn’t consider that for Sara they might be much more than that. (The idea of ‘the in-between’ is from the insight of Jeff Goins. His blog is definitely worth checking out: http://goinswriter.com.)

So now I think with sadness about when Sara will next get the chance to ride around on someone’s back. When will that be? And how many other children in Japan – or indeed elsewhere – are waiting for the Father figure they need to “be a horse”?

Now I know this story doesn’t really prove anything. It doesn’t prove that there are many absent Fathers in Japan. It doesn’t prove that children need male role models or piggybacks. It doesn’t prove that the Bible is true or powerful. Although I do think all those things are true.

But if you’re the praying kind, I hope this inspires you to pray for missionaries in Japan to be filled with 1 Corinthian 13 style patient, other-seeking love.

And whoever you are, I hope this might make you think twice the next time a little child asks you for a piggyback ride and you’re tempted to say no. I hope you’ll consider those moments from the viewpoint of a child who just wants to enjoy being with you. 

Go on, be a horse!