Recently I read a book entitled Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson. I really enjoyed the book (although it did contain some inappropriate parts being a secular novel); it was about a small island off the coast of Washington in the 1950’s. A Japanese man, Kabuo Miyamoto, faces a first degree murder charge for the death of his childhood friend, Carl Heine. The underlying plot of the novel deals with issues revolving around relationship between the white and Japanese populations on the island. The white people of the island harbor underlying prejudices toward Kabuo and the other Japanese people of the island due to WWII, which only preceded the trial by a decade, and the Japanese people possess scars from living in the Japanese-American internment camps.
Throughout the novel the author, Guterson, writes flashbacks of the character’s teenage years. At one point in the novel, Kabuo’s wife, Hatsue, flashes back to a conversation she had with her mother after her mother found out about Hatue’s relationship with a white boy named Ishmael. Following is her mother monologue:
I cannot translate all of this easily, except as the impurity that comes with living each day among the white people. I am not asking you to shun them entirely – this you should not do. You must live in this world, of course you must, and this world is the world of the hakujin [white man] – you must learn to live in it, you must go to school. But don’t all0w living among the hakujin to become living intertwined with them. Your soul will decay.
As I read this quote from a secular novel I thought about Lyle’s all time favorite Bible passage – Romans 12. In Romans 12:2 Paul writes “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” In the novel Hatue’s mother feared that her daughter was intermingling with the white-man’s world to the point in which she was forgetting her heritage. Paul, in Romans 12, warns the church of becoming too much of the world. As Christians, God calls us to not be of this world. Instead we are to rise above the ways of this world. 1 John 2:16 teaches “For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world.”
Of course, one must raise the questions, “How does one live in this world without being changed by it? How does one keep oneself from conforming to this world in some manner or the other.” John 17:14-15 helps me with these questions – “I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.” In this passage Jesus prays to the Father; in His prayer He does not ask God to remove us from the world (if He did that then no one else could discover the good news of salvation), but rather He simply asks for protection. If we guard ourselves with His word, which this verse clearly states Jesus has given to us, we can confidently face the ways of this world with a Godly prospective. With God’s help and Jesus’ example we can learn how to become Christians living in this world without becoming of the world.
A band called The Hush Sound has a song that I thought fit well with the post called “We Intertwined.” The lyrics say:
Like vines we intertwined
Carelessly growing up and growing old
Life was on our tongues
It tasted heavenly so good
Let’s not do as this song says; let’s set ourselves apart from this world. Let’s not forget our Godly heritage because we are too caught up in worldly ways. We must not live carelessly and only for the pleasures of this world. Instead let us live for God and follow the example provided for us in God’s word. Afterall, this life pales in comparison to the eternal life we will have in heaven.