Bible Reading: 1 Peter 3:8-12
Katakiuchi (Japanese) = vengeance, revenge.
1 Peter 3:9, “Not returning evil for evil, or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead.”
Mitsuo Fuchida was the lead Japanese pilot in the attack on Pearl Harbor. He returned to Japan and received a hero’s welcome. During the Japanese campaign, he advanced in the military. 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 American prisoner abuse in Japanese prison camps. He assumed that 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. He 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 that he never “saw atrocities in the American camps.” He shared an experience that 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 that Peggy’s parents had in their possession a small portable radio the soldiers mistook for a secret communications apparatus. They tried the couple as spies and convicted them. With their eyes blindfolded and their hands bound behind their backs, they were forced to their knees. Then, 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 that 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 moral. 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. And his sons and daughter to 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 by folks 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 of the gospel. 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.
God forgave my sin in Jesus’ name
I’ve been born again in Jesus’ name
And in Jesus’ name I come to you
To share His love as He told me to
Chorus: He said freely freely
You have received
Freely freely give
Go in My name
And because you believe
Others will know that I live
All pow’r is giv’n in Jesus’ name
In earth and heav’n in Jesus’ name
And in Jesus’ name I come to you
To share His pow’r as He told me to [Chorus]