In the 1930’s after surviving World War I and slogging through the Great Depression, America wanted no part of another fight. Though the Empire of Japan was bent on colonizing the Pacific and Nazi Germany all of Europe, the United States isolated themselves from joining allies in engaging these dual threats to global stability. Then December 7, 1941 happened. The Japanese attacked the U.S. Naval base at Pearl Harbor and other military installations on the island of Oahu in Hawaii thrusting America into World War II.
The balance of world power shifted as the United States woke up and grew to become the world’s dominant superpower. It was a rude awakening that came at great cost as approximately 3,000 lives were lost, most of whom were in their youthful prime.
SPIRITUAL IMPACT: LOST AND FOUND
America’s triumph would have profound spiritual impact. The gospel took flight as a humbled nation opened their hearts to Jesus. A flaming young evangelist named Billy Graham would emerge in the mid 1940’s and take God’s Word to all the world. Many others would follow in his footsteps as a country founded on scripture reclaimed its global missionary mandate as a spiritual superpower.
However, there was one country we failed to fully respond to – Japan. Legendary General Douglas MacArthur, in charge of establishing post-war Japan, put out a call for 10,000 missionaries to re-build and re-shape that war torn nation but only 600 arose. It proved not to be enough, and to this day, staunchly Buddhist Japan remains one of the most resistant, unreached peoples of the world.
In a remarkable touch of irony, Japanese Captain Mitsuo Fuchida, leader of the attack on Pearl Harbor, responded to the gospel after the war, dedicated his life to preaching the gospel, and did so significantly in of all places, the United States!
GOING ALL IN
The spiritual parallels are many and the lessons innumerable. Here are just a few as we ponder the 75 year aftermath of “The Day that will live in infamy”:
- We must GO. Jesus said this simply and clearly: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations…”(Matthew 28:19) We must go into our world and to all the world with the good news of Jesus Christ. We must go to our friends and family locally, and we must extend the gospel to the unreached globally. If WW2 and world history has taught us anything it is this: “Their fight is our fight.”
- We must not stay out of what we are supposed to be a part of. Lives are at stake. None of the thousands who perished on 12.7.41 ever imagined it would be their last day on earth. Our cry should be that of the great prophet Isaiah’s: “Here am I! Send me!” (Isaiah 6:8)
- Start with one. Then go to another. That’s what Jesus did, that’s what the disciples to did, and that’s what we should do: “The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, ‘We have found the Messiah, that is the Christ.’ And he brought him to Jesus.” (John 1:41-42) If every believer would go all-in with this simple approach, the world can be won within a decade.
The urgency of Isaiah came out of seeing the Lord clearly after his iconic hero had passed. A heritage of wealth and comfort and a coveted place in King Uzziah’s palace could have clouded his vision. It sure clouded America’s back in the 1930’s until Pearl Harbor happened. We could be there again. With history as our teacher, we know this: It’s time to go “all-in.” Only through the gospel will there be hope for the world.
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