Loving One’s Enemies
Bible Reading: Matthew 5:43-48
Though we were enemies of God, He has nevertheless worked though Jesus to reconcile us to Him (Romans 5:8-11). God has called us to love in like manner, and as you will see in this following story, God is able to use that radically-differing way of responding to make Himself known.
Mitsuo Fuchida was the lead pilot in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. He returned to Japan to receive a hero’s welcome and advanced in the military throughout the Japanese campaign. He narrowly escaped death on several occasions, but survived to the end of the war. Later when called upon to testify at the War Crime trials he was troubled by testimonies he heard regarding the abuse of American prisoners in Japanese prison camps. He assumed such treatment was typical in the American camps as well. He went so far as to travel to Uraga, Japan to meet with returning Japanese prisoners to find evidence of such abuse.
He met a man there, Sub-lieutenant Kazuo Kanegaski, who had previously served with him. This soldier had survived the sinking of the carrier Hiryu only to be rescued by the Americans. He was ultimately taken to a prisoner camp/hospital near the Utah-Colorado border. Kanegaski told Fuchida he never “saw atrocities in the American camps.” He went on to share an experience he had there: “Something happened at my camp which made it possible for all of us interned there to stop nursing our resentment and to return to Japan with lightened hearts…Shortly after the end of the war, an American girl about 18 years old came to the camp as a volunteer social worker. She ministered to the Japanese with tireless energy and kindness. Her name was Margaret Covell. The men called her Peggy, as did her American friends. She spoke no Japanese, but the prisoners had picked up enough English to communicate with her. ‘If you’re uncomfortable or need anything, let me know,’ she would say. ‘I’ll do anything I can to help.’ With her conscientious care she touched the prisoners. She also puzzled them. Some three weeks after her first visit, one of the men asked her curiously, ‘Why are you so kind to us?’ ‘Because Japanese soldiers killed my parents,’ she answered.”
As the prisoners stared at her in astonishment, she explained that her parents were missionaries who had fled Japan to Manila where they thought they would be safe. When the Japanese captured the city they fled to the mountains. Japanese soldiers ultimately found Peggy’s parents and in their possession a small portable radio they mistook for a secret communications apparatus. They tried the couple as spies and convicted them. They were blindfolded, their hands bound behind their backs, and forced to their knees. As the husband and wife prayed—asking God to forgive their executioners–the Japanese soldiers beheaded them.
“Peggy, who had been living in the United States, didn’t learn of her parents’ fate until the end of the war. At first she choked with hatred for the Japanese. Then she began to meditate on her parents’ selfless service to them. Slowly she became convinced her parents had indeed forgiven their executioners before death. Could she do less? So she volunteered to work with Japanese prisoners of war. Her example of charity and gentleness greatly impressed the men, and they loved her with a pure tenderness.”
Fuchida was puzzled by what he heard. “The Japanese considered revenge a beautiful virtue. A man captured and awaiting death never forgave his captors. He prayed to be born again seven times, and to exact revenge in each life. He even prayed his sons and daughter would avenge him. The Japanese word for revenge, katakiuchi, means literally ‘attack enemy.’ Steeped in Japanese history and culture, Fuchida fervently believed in the principle of katakiuchi. Now he heard a story of unjust suffering and death and a daughter left to continue the bloodline. But the tale featured no vow of vengeance from either the dying or the survivor.”
“Fuchida was thunderstruck. ‘This beautiful story overwhelmed me and made me ashamed,’ he reflected. He had come to Uraga with hate in his heart. What he found was goodness he could scarcely comprehend.” Ultimately Peggy’s example was used by God to help lead Fuchida to Christ. He was saved and became an evangelist. He once shared the gospel from a platform standing next to Jacob DeShazer (the former Japanese prisoner who later returned to Japan as a missionary). Fuchida even visited Jacob’s church in Salem, Oregon. Fuchida committed his life to the sharing of the gospel–in both Japan and America and far away Germany and Finland. He even visited Hawaii. Instead of delivering bombs, he brought to them the good news of eternal life through Christ.
Katakiuchi. That’s the way the world typically thinks and behaves. But to get even is not to get ahead. Peggy could have chosen a different route. It would have been both natural and acceptable, according to the world’s way of thinking, for her to seethe in bitterness and nurture thoughts of revenge. Instead, looking to Christ’s example, by the Spirit’s direction and power, she took the higher route. Her parents would have been pleased. Her forgiveness and loving sacrifice reflected the greater love she herself had received in Christ. It gave tangible evidence to the truth about Jesus. May the love that has been shed abroad in our hearts overflow from our lives and boldly testify to the greater love of Christ from which it flows!
Quotations from “God’s Samurai: Lead Pilot at Pearl Harbor,” by Donald M. Goldstein and Gordon W. Prange; Copyright 1990 by Prange Enterprises, Inc.
When We Love Our Enemies We Direct Their Thoughts Godward
Lord Jesus. How precious Your example to us from the cross! You prayed for us though it was us who put You there! Such love is too wonderful for us to comprehend. We are so prone to responding in kind when people cause us harm. But You’ve commanded us to love our enemies and even pray for them. Thank You for the examples of our brothers and and sisters who have responded to Your call to love like this. May the Spirit work within us that we might view things according to the perspective of Your truth. And as we are confronted by opposition, in whatever way, may we be strengthened by Your grace and filled with Your compassion, that we might imitate You. Cause us to be always mindful of the cross which has not only worked to save us, but to instruct us in the self-sacrificing manner of life to which You’ve called us. In Your Name. Amen.