Bob and Weave

Musings of an impostor. Welcome to the masquerade.

In Need of Relief

Posted by flyingbk on 03/27/2017

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About two months ago, I watched the movie Silence. This Martin Scorsese-directed flick takes place in the 17th century, when the Japanese government ruthlessly persecuted Christians. The government discovered an ingenious way to put down the Church. First, the inquisitors killed Christians; but they soon realized that method only served to inspire the Church due to the martyrdom effect. So instead they forced Christians to step on a fumie, usually a stone creation which featured a picture of Jesus or the virgin Mary.

The government especially targeted Catholic priests and gave them an impossible choice: They must either step on the fumie, thereby apostatizing and losing their status as a Father, while sharply discouraging their following. Or else, they will continually witness the torturing and even killing of said following. This quandary propels the plot in Silence as Father Rodrigues (played by Andrew Garfield) is torn between the two options.

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I want to focus on another character in the novel and movie. He’s a tragic figure named Kichijiro (Yosuke Kubozuka). He grows up as a Christian. But during this time of persecution, he steps on the fumie, which causes his fellow believers to shun him. And yet he keeps trying: He discovers Fathers Rodrigues and Garupe (Adam Driver) and helps them find refuge in a Christian village. During that time, he approaches Rodrigues, and says, “Father, I must confess my sins.” Father Rodrigues faithfully provides the opportunity for Kichijiro to receive forgiveness.

But soon enough, Kichijiro’s true colors show as he sells out the two priests to the government for a few silver coins (remind you of anyone?). Still, he finds Rodrigues in the prison camp, bows before him, and implores with clarity: “Father, I must confess my sins.” After he receives forgiveness– in literally the next scene– we see Kichijiro running naked out of the camp, free to go because he has stepped on the fumie again.

Near the end of the movie, there’s Kichijiro again, finding Rodrigues one more time. Rodrigues is strongly reluctant (for multiple reasons related to the plot), and yet Kichijiro insists: “Father, I must confess my sins.”

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My Union Square theater-watching companions groaned each time Kichijiro betrayed God and his people, and snickered when Kichijiro repeated the same request before Rodrigues.

Kichijiro is my favorite character in Silence. The Catholic way of confession aside, he understood that because of Jesus Christ’s death on the cross, there is always forgiveness available. It doesn’t matter the depth, or length, or hideousness, or the number of offenses committed. There is always grace available, no matter what we’ve done, no matter how bad or unfaithful we’ve been.

There are still many of us today, even those who grew up in church, who struggle with how truly forgiven we are. Some of us believe the lie that we are beyond repair, beyond redemption. We hope that we’ll survive, but we think we’ll never thrive. So we settle for a mediocre Christian life, or we spend energy trying to run away from God because we’re afraid and ashamed of what we’ve thought, what we’ve said, what we’ve done.

We are all Kichijiro. We all desperately need unconditional love and acceptance. And because of what Jesus has done for us, we can always get a fresh start in God. If we fall, we can get back up. If we fall for weeks, months, and yes, years, we can still start anew right away because of the lavish grace that God pours out upon us. All we need to do is come before God and say, “Father I must confess my sins.”

Many of us know 1 John 1:9. It says:

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (NIV)

(Hat tip to the book PROOF for the following point. I heartily recommend it, and hope you read it and get drunk on God’s grace.)

Have we actually thought about what this verse is saying? At first glance, this is what 1 John 1:9 should say: “If we confess our sins, God is kind and merciful… and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” If you and I are guilty of a crime, the last thing we would want is for the judge assigned to our case to be faithful and just.

So why does the apostle John choose these two adjectives? He chooses faithful and just because he’s highlighting the point– if you and I are in Jesus Christ, and thus believe that Jesus died for us, and we admit our need for his grace– then, it would be unfaithful and unjust of God to not forgive us! The relationship that God invites all of us to, one in which we receive full forgiveness and grace time and time again, is marked by His choice to bind Himself to this covenant.

Kichijiro and each of his scenes do serve as measure of comic relief in the movie. And when we know the power and depth of God’s grace, and receive a fresh start day after day, we also laugh at the hilarity of it all. We laugh at how ridiculous it is that we’re so wicked and depraved, and yet so loved, accepted, and forgiven. We guffaw heartily at the scandal of grace. And there is joy, all the day long.

 

 

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One Response to “In Need of Relief”

  1. […] « In Need of Relief […]

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