The other day while perusing the headlines, one popped out at me about a Japanese soldier who had recently died at the age of 91. Hiroo Onoda was noteworthy because he managed to keep his post serving in WWII 27 years after Japan’s surrender in 1945.
I was incredulous.
Holed up on the island of Lubang in the northern Philippines, several of his friends and family attempted to convince Onoda that the war was over but he believed these to be “attempts to persuade him to leave were a plot concocted by the pro-US government in Tokyo.”
It was only until his former commanding officer came to island and convinced the officer that WWII had ended. He laid down his functioning military arm weeping uncontrollably. Onoda was praised and decorated for his strong will to live.
Apparently, he wasn’t alone in his situation. Another soldier, Shoichi Yokoi, was found in 1972 on the island of Guam. I would agree with Yokoi’s sentiment when he famously stated upon his return to Japan, “It is with much embarrassment, but I have returned.”
I thought to myself, how can someone be so set on a system of beliefs, disillusioned, and scared that they repeatedly deny every attempt to bring them back to reality? The Japanese government lauded them as war heroes and decorated them for their commitment to the cause. I call it foolishness.
Onoda later stated that he felt like he had to do everything he wanted to in life twice as fast to make up for the lost years.
The other night, I had a dream I was worshipping. Caught up in worship, I was struck with the realization of the great freedom I have in Christ but haven’t claimed. I knew that I was free, but I wasn’t walking in that freedom. Then, I saw the image of a man walking out of the jungle. He was trembling. He was wearing war-torn clothing, but he was free. Somehow, I made the connection. Continuing to live by the law when Christ has set me free is the same as fighting the cause for a war that has long ended.
For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code. Romans 7:5-6
Whenever I am tempted to put myself above someone else by my self-acclaimed “qualifications,” look down on someone because of they haven’t lived up my standards, feel guilt or shame for my poor spiritual performance, or use any other means to justify myself apart from Christ—I am living in the jungle of the law.
Jesus, thank You for setting me free. Even though I know I am free of the jungle, every day will be a fight to stay out. “I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway.” Help me to keep in step with the Spirit.