This country is a swamp. In time you will come to see that for yourself. This country is a more terrible swamp than you can imagine. Whenever you plant a sapling in this swamp the roots begin to rot, the leaves grow yellow and wither. And we have planted the sapling of Christianity in this swamp. (p. 237)
Such are the words of the apostate priest, Father Christovao Ferreira, in Shusaku Endo’s book, “Silence.” In the book, Ferreira tries to convince another priest that all his efforts to bring Christianity to Japan were in vain. And in a country where even today, the Christian population remains miniscule (less than one percent), not much seems to have changed. I have heard Japan even described as a missionary’s graveyard, where people have come with great hopes of spreading the gospel, only to return home down and discouraged.
All this comes to mind as I read this passage in Kings. Here, Elisha comes to a city and the people say,
Look, our lord, this town is well situated, as you can see, but the water is bad and the land is unproductive. (19)
And people say the same of Japan. “It’s a great place. The people are nice. But the water is bad and the land is unproductive. No matter how much we try to spread the seeds of the gospel, nothing grows.”
But what does Elisha do? He throws salt into the spring, and says,
This is what the Lord says: ‘I have healed this water. Never again will it cause death or make the land unproductive.’ (21)
This is what Jesus wants to do with Japan. He calls us the salt of the earth, and by spreading us throughout Japan, he wants to heal the “water” of the land. Instead of being a stagnant swamp that rots whatever is put in it, he wants to fill Japan with the living water of his Holy Spirit, that death should not reign here, but that the seeds of the gospel would find fertile ground.
But for that to happen, we need to be salt. Jesus said,
You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men. (Matthew 5:13)
How can we lose our saltiness? By blending in with this world. By being exactly the same as the rest of this world in our way of thinking and in our actions. By being self-centered in our daily lives, rather than God-centered. By focusing on the things of earth, rather than the things above. The list goes on.
The question we need to ask ourselves is, “How salty are we?” If we want to see a change in Japan, if we want to see it turn into a fertile, productive land for the seeds of the gospel, it starts with us. It starts with us being the salt in this land that God calls us to be.
Lord Jesus, this land is dying. It seems unproductive. Your word often doesn’t seem to take root here, and many people are going to hell because of it. But Lord, you are the one who can turn a swamp into a spring of living water. Fill me with your Spirit. Use me. And use your church to spread salt into this swamp and make it into a fertile land that brings life to people, not death. In Jesus name, amen.