光あるうちに  Hikari aru uchi ni  (Miura Ayako, 1971)
While there is Light – An Introduction to the Christian Faith

This is the third part of Miura Ayako’s autobiography. Unlike the first two parts, the emphasis is on presenting the Christian faith rather than on relating her life story. In the first half of the book, Miura Ayako draws on personal experience and her observation of human nature to show that people are fundamentally weak and self-centred. She encourages the reader to face up to these facts and to the emptiness that we often experience in our lives. Rather than leading to despair, such realisation should cause us to seek God and a deeper meaning for our lives. In the second half, Miura Ayako presents the good news of God’s love and the way we can begin a new life in relationship with Him through Jesus’ death on the cross. She encourages the reader to take their first steps to discover this new life through reading the Bible, going to church and talking to God in prayer.

The following briefly summarises the content of each chapter. Miura Ayako uses illustrations from everyday life and an informal, engaging style to communicate these biblical truths.

Preface
Every person has intrinsic value and every life can be filled with meaning and purpose.

What is Sin?
Illustrates our double standards whereby we are quick to condemn others while excusing ourselves. Our self-centredness leads us to view everything from our own standpoint. Sin is not just breaking the law – it is also breaking the moral code. Explanation of original sin as “missing the mark” – we were created to be God-centred but have become self-centred. The Bible says that no one is righteous. We all have hatred, envy and pride in our hearts. Maybe the greatest sin of all is to be unaware of our sin.

Our Human Frailty
Christianity is often viewed as a crutch for the weak. But how realistic is it to rely totally on oneself? We do not have limitless understanding or ability. We are powerless to resolve many of our problems and a sudden illness can turn our world upside down. Jesus’ disciples were ordinary men just like us. They were weak and fled for their lives when Jesus was arrested. But later they were transformed. God can make a difference in our lives too.

The Meaning of Freedom
Some people fear losing their freedom if they become a Christian. But what is real freedom? Freedom to do exactly what we please results in slavery to ambition, greed and sexual desire. Real freedom is the power to make the right choices.

About Love
As their ship sank, two missionaries gave their life jackets to two young Japanese passengers. How does our love compare to this? Our love often depends on circumstances. In difficulty or danger we often put ourselves first. Romantic love is often a means of fulfilling our own desires. God’s love as described in 1Cor 13 is different. Try putting your name in front of these qualities. The only name that fits here is Jesus. It is only his love that can change our self-centredness.

Emptiness
Many are aware of an emptiness in their lives but often try to fill it through various activities and interests. We seek new experiences and set ourselves new goals but ultimately the things of this world are empty and meaningless. It is better to recognise this than to build our lives on such unreliable foundations. It is only God who can provide us with a purpose and meaning for the whole of our lives.

The One True God
Some say they will not believe in anything that cannot be seen or proved scientifically. But we see only certain wavelengths, hear only certain frequencies and scientists have only scratched the surface of the secrets of our universe. We need to be humble and recognise our human limitations.
Other people in Japan worship many things as gods including the spirits of those who have died. What does the Bible say about God? An all-powerful, creator God. A holy God in whose presence we cannot hold up our heads, but also a God of love and forgiveness as seen in the parable of the prodigal son. Jesus came that we might know this God.

God, Christ and Man
Why is it necessary to believe that Jesus is the Son of God? This is a stumbling block for many, including the author before she became a Christian. But Jesus clearly made this claim about himself and it was this that led the Jewish leaders to arrest him for blasphemy. When we look at the character of Jesus in the gospels we see how he valued each person regardless of their position in society. He was totally selfless. Only a man free of sin could pay for our sins to be forgiven by a holy God. His coming had been foretold hundreds of years previously by the Old Testament prophets.

The Resurrection and the Bible
Jesus’ resurrection is described in the gospels in great detail and is given as proof that He is the Son of God. But why should we believe what is written in the Bible? The Bible was written over a period of 2000 years by a variety of authors but one characteristic throughout is the honesty with which the weaknesses and failings of its protagonists are described. This includes the great heroes of the Old Testament as well as Jesus’ disciples. But the Bible also describes how the disciples were transformed and proclaimed with great boldness that Jesus had risen from the dead. They stood to gain nothing from a lie but continued to assert the truth of the resurrection in the face of persecution and death.

The Christian Church
Many people are interested in God but are hesitant to visit a church. The author discusses some common concerns and reminds the reader that Christians are forgiven sinners, not saints. They are ordinary, weak people who can still let you down and disappoint you so your expectations must be focused on God. But church is the place where we can relate to others and together worship and learn more about God so that each person can be strengthened and encouraged.

How to Pray
Prayer is our conversation with God. It changes our theoretical knowledge about God into personal experience of Him. The author compares Christian prayer with the Japanese custom of asking the gods for health and safety. We can pray for others and through prayer, God can show us how he wants us to live. She also discusses unanswered prayer and suffering.

Epilogue
Brief comments on a selection of bible verses that have been particularly meaningful to the author. She summarises her testimony and gives a final challenge to the reader to turn to Jesus and to “walk in the light, while there still is light.”




© Japan Christian Link 27/3/2004

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