Forgiving as The Lord Forgave Us

Maho Tate met Jesus through the support of JCL Mission Partners Richard and Yuko Brash when they were based in Oxford and then again in Edinburgh. Maho tells us how, as Jesus led her to him, she learned to love herself and others as Jesus does and to hear God's voice in the Scriptures.

Maho writes:

It was in January 2017 that I first came into contact with the Bible. It all started while I was studying at Oxford University and a friend invited me to come along to a Bible study at St Ebbe’s Church. It was a big Bible study group with lots of students, and one of the small groups was in Japanese. That was where I first met Richard and Yuko, who later on would have a big influence in my decision to become a Christian.

I’m not from a Christian home and I didn’t go to a Christian school, so my first impression of the Bible was just that it seemed like a difficult book, which was probably saying something good! But once I started to read it, I began to see the forgiving love of the Lord Jesus, and I realised that his words in the Bible could be applied to my own life.

Love your neighbour as yourself.

This quote from Mark’s gospel 12:30-31 came as a challenge to me because at the time I was struggling to love even myself, let alone other people. If I couldn’t even accept and love myself, how could I possibly love others as I love myself? I thought deeply about this.

Because I had no confidence in myself, I was envious and sometimes jealous of others, and I always had these feelings that I couldn’t be proud of swirling around in my heart. Through the Bible, I came to know how sinful I am, and this was one of the things I began to feel really acutely. So, when I heard that Jesus bore all our sin and blame as our substitute, and that he paid the price for my sin on the cross, I was deeply moved. I wondered how the Lord was able to sacrifice himself for others and how I could ever have the same kind of heart as him.

Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts.

When I read these words from Colossians 3:13-15 I understood that, by knowing the Lord Jesus, who forgives and accepts even someone like me, and by learning from him, only then could I forgive myself and other people, and begin to love. The more familiar I became with the teaching of the Bible, the more I experienced peace and calm in my heart.

Those parts of the Bible which I had previously understood as just ‘stories’ started to affect my heart powerfully.

When I moved to Edinburgh I joined the Brashes on Thursday evenings at their home for Bible study and we read the Bible together, beginning from Genesis. As I grew in my understanding of the Creator God I came to be aware not just of the love that the Lord shows us, but of what it means to ‘fear’ him, as the one who is far above anything we can imagine. As I saw how the Lord is worthy to be trusted, I wanted to know and understand his word even more, and my heart became more open to the Bible. Also, those parts of the Bible which I had previously understood as just 'stories' started to affect my heart powerfully. I began to feel as though I was no longer a third-party just looking in on the story, but rather it was as though I was right there in the story, listening to the Lord speaking, almost like his words were directed straight to me. In particular, I remember hearing a sermon at church on John 10. In verse 11 Jesus says, “I am the good shepherd”, and in verse 27 he says, “my sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” When I heard these words, I came to see myself as one of his sheep. Although I had begun to think about baptism before, at that moment I felt strongly moved with the will to follow Jesus.

This might be a typical Japanese way of thinking, but I had thought that you need to understand the whole Bible before you get baptised! But Richard and Yuko told me that baptism isn’t like a graduation ceremony, but it marks the start of walking as a Christian. They encouraged me that if the words of the Bible were starting to affect me, and if I knew enough about the Lord to trust him, that I should be baptised, and so I decided I wanted to start life as a Christian. I knew that I wanted to begin a lifetime of understanding the Bible here in this church.

It took two years for me to decide to believe, which is probably quite a long time! But I’m so grateful to Richard and Yuko for leading me to this point. After we’d met in Oxford, it seemed that it was by 'chance' that we ended up together again in Edinburgh, but I believe this was the Lord’s leading. I’m also grateful to everyone at the International Lunch Fellowship here at Chalmers Church who has helped me to grow in my understanding of the Bible, and to all the folks here in the church who have so warmly welcomed me on Sundays. Above all, I’m grateful to the Lord who has led me to this day.

Maho Tate, Chiba, Japan