Matthew 9:37-38 has had me pondering the harvest. I’ve grown up in a fairly suburban and rural mix of the southeast, so I can visit a corn field or a pumpkin patch with just a drive down the road from my house. I wondered what the fields that Jesus’ disciples could see contained.
I was encouraged by a Christian mentor to spend time enjoying my creative side even though it seems I have no time for it right now. Remembering how much I loved the arts I studied in Japan, I went out and bought a brush and some ink. But, then I had to contemplate what a harvest might hold for a Japanese person. What should I paint? Pumpkins? Tea? Rice?
I settled on rice and began looking at several images of the crop because I’ve never seen one close up. While meditating on Matthew 9, and comparing and contrasting rice with other crops, God refreshed my understanding of these passages. Just as God has made a wide variety of plants and vegetation for His delight, so he has made a wide variety of human beings and cultures that portray His image for His delight. The harvest in Matthew 9 is not specified as one type of crop, and I think with good reason. Our multi-faceted unfathomably beautiful God desires a harvest of every culture, every crop, to reflect His beauty and to showcase the far-reaching extent of His mercy.
It has been said that some missionaries till, some water, and some reap. These steps are all crucial, miss one and the whole crop will be laid to waste. All Godly missionary work is important, even if you can’t see the benefit in the midst of your contribution to the process. All crops need to be watered in order to get to the harvesting point, but the workers need an understanding of their crop to do their work properly. The amount of water that would nourish one crop would drown another.
Every crop is unique, and requires a tailored approach. It seems to me that rice needs a lot of water to be cultivated. There are varying theories as to why Christianity has been brought to Japan to flourish and then be squelched at least twice so far, historically, but I’ll put my two cents in one at a time— the new Christians needed to be discipled much more than they were (watering) and the Japanese people needed to be approached and cared for as a unique plant (rice, not wheat). Missionaries to Japan (and anywhere) need to be willing to put in the time and effort necessary to enrich the lives they are endeavoring to reach and to train new believers to study Scripture for themselves and to lead others to Christ.
Let’s not give up on Japan. Let’s not give up on any people group. God has created each and every one of them, and desires that they all be saved. Let’s become students of our culture groups, and not master them like we would our home fields. It’s hard to learn the ropes, but it yields a much healthier blessing. Honoring others for the unique way in which they bear His image, honors God the Father whose image they bear. May the Holy Spirit help us understand one another, and unite us all in Christ.