Friday’s Column: Supplemental Strength
John Moody McCaleb was a missionary in Japan for the better part of his life. He moved to the island nation during the Meiji era, in which Japan was sprinting to catch up to the technology and emulate the political philosophy of the West. The war-weary pacifist, David Lipscomb, strongly influenced McCaleb. (I would dare say that it did not take much to sway him since his father, a Union soldier, was shot and killed by a fellow Union soldier as he was crossing a stream since he did not hear the latter’s order to halt. 1)
Hence, when Japan became an Imperial state in its early Showa era, McCaleb’s pacifistic ideology put him at odds with his adopted home. He was sent “home” to the United States in October of 1941, just a couple of months before the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. Since his expulsion, McCaleb’s house, which survived the tumultuous world war, has become a museum. A contemporary caretaker of the museum noted that McCaleb never flew an American or Japanese flag in front of his residence, stating “my true nationality is the kingdom of heaven.” 2
Perhaps, it should not surprise us that the first stanza of a hymn penned by McCaleb reads as follows: “Of one the Lord has made the race, Through one has come the fall; Where sin has gone must go His grace: The gospel is for all.” Yes, this pioneering American missionary of the Restoration Movement wrote one of the most beloved hymns highlighting the Great Commission (cf. Matthew 28:19-20), The Gospel Is for All.
I wished to share this to drive home one point. McCaleb failed to see cultural distinctions as “racial” in nature. McCaleb understood as Paul told the Athenians in Acts 17.26-27: “and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us. (NASB)” Indeed, we are of one race, the human race.
When we look for the genesis of our divisions in God’s Word, we read Genesis 11 and the account of the Tower of Babel. Within that chapter, humanity, united, sought to use its solidarity to rebel against God. God couldn’t allow that for, because thus united, He observed, “Behold, they are one people, and they all have the same language. And this is what they began to do, and now nothing which they purpose to do will be impossible for them” (Genesis 11:6 NASB). And so, God divided us by giving us different languages.
Someone might scoff that vocabulary is not an insurmountable barrier since we learn the tongues of others today. First, it is not as if there were primers to teach one another the new languages existing initially after the Tower of Babel. Second, thus motivated to disperse, they went on to develop cultures independent of one another centered on those communication divisions. They intermarried those of their lingual group who had developed customs different from other lingual groups. It was a positive feedback loop.
Might I humbly suggest that this remains the source of our societal ills today when it comes to poorly labeled “race relations,” since we are only one race? We have different cultures and customs. Language is not an insurmountable obstacle because we know the syllabaries and alphabets of those speaking different languages from ourselves. With this knowledge, we take the Gospel to every creature.
But if we want to know what causes a man to kneel on the neck of a subdued man because he has more melanin in his skin, it is not a “racial problem.” It is a sin problem. And even though we all like to think that those resembling ourselves are free of such biases, it is something against which we all must carefully guard our hearts, whether we possess little or much melanin.
Each of us is created in the image of God and must seek to treat one another as we desire to be treated (Matthew 7.12). Please keep this in mind whenever you see the “if-it-bleeds-it-leads” type of headlines the devil likes to employ to impede the progress of the Gospel in this world. He seeks to do so by convincing men that the essential things are the least important, but that the amount of melanin in one’s skin is of greater import.
1 Walker, Wayne. “‘The Gospel Is For All.’” Hymnstudiesblog, WordPress.com, 6 Nov. 2008, hymnstudiesblog.wordpress.com/2008/11/06/quotthe-gospel-is-for-allquot/.
2 Ikuma, Koji. “The Old Missionary Museum of Zoshigaya, a Story of One of the Famous Christian Missionaries in Japan.” Unfamiliar Japan Tours, Unfamiliar Japan Tours.com, 19 Aug. 2016, uj-tours.com/missionary-house/.