“Why aren’t you a Buddhist?”
My bespectacled professor had a bemused expression as he waited for my answer.
“What do you mean?” I cautiously replied.
Nodding his head he elaborated, “I mean, you’re Japanese, right? Aren’t most Japanese Buddhist or Shinto?”
A politically incorrect statement like that wouldn’t go far in 2017, but this was 1983. I was engaged in a summer of research within my college molecular biology professor’s laboratory. He was Jewish and was intrigued about why I was a Christian.
“Well…” I sheepishly began. “You are correct. Many Japanese are Buddhist. But God was merciful to me and led me to His Son, Jesus Christ. And I became a Christian a year ago.”
“But everything in the Bible is so foreign to Japanese culture. You know Jesus was a Jew, right? I understand the culture, of course, but do you? Can you relate to his life?”
I was being backed into a corner. “I...uh, haven’t really studied Jewish culture and traditions, everything I know is from the Bible, the Old Testament.”
“So, you can relate to the Jewish traditions?” Shaking his head, he continued. “Good. Good. Christianity evangelizes. What does that mean for a Jew like me? Am I lost? Am I going to hell?”
Whoa. I had only been a Christian for a year and had very little opportunity to defend my faith, much less share it with a Jewish person. He was my professor, adding an intimidating dimension to the entire interaction. My palms grew slick as I sought to politely answer his charge.
“The Apostle Paul, who was a Pharisee, a Jew, said that the Jews are the trunk of the olive tree and Christians are wild branches grafted in.”
That brought a smile to his face. “I see! So you guys are the riff-raff, the wild, and we are the pedigree, the real deal!” His Jewish faith was vindicated in his eyes as superior.
“Very good!” He seemed quite satisfied with my answer, even if I was not.
But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, although a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing root of the olive tree, do not be arrogant toward the branches. If you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you.
Romans 11:17-18 (ESV)
Jesus Christ was Jewish. The Jews are God’s chosen people. But through Jesus Christ, God has extended His grace and mercy to all who confess their sins, repent, and place their trust in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. And someday, all Jews will know and believe that Jesus Christ is the Messiah and the Son of God.
Lest you be wise in your own sight, I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written, “The Deliverer will come from Zion, he will banish ungodliness from Jacob; and this will be my covenant with them when I take away their sins.”
Romans 11:25-27 (ESV)
Why am I not a Buddhist? Because God was merciful to me and changed my heart to know the truth of salvation through His Son, Jesus Christ. His promise of salvation is for all nations, all cultures, and all races!
Love and trust the Lord; seek His will in your life.