Sixteenth century Japanese fumie, used for treading on as a symbolic renunciation of Christ

Recently, in a troubled central-Asian republic where there has recently been much turmoil, a Christian was kidnapped and tortured by Islamist extremists.  In great pain, and with threats of similar violence to his wife and children, he agreed to their demands to renounce Jesus, and was released.  Subsequently, he suffered huge pangs of guilt and remorse.  Although he had not done this willingly, he had said the words.  He felt he had let down his Saviour.  How could he find forgiveness for that?

This reminds me of a story explored in Shusako Endo’s prize-winning novel Silence.  It concerns a Jesuit priest in mediaeval Japan, who is captured and forced to renounce Jesus by treading on an image of him, as many Japanese believers were forced to do during the seventeenth century.  As he wondered where his God was in the midst of his dilemma, he looked at the image of Jesus and felt it saying to him, “Trample! Trample! It is to be trampled on by you that I am here.”  Endo gives us an image not only of a Christ who suffered and was rejected on the cross, but one who continues to be rejected.

What would you say to encourage a man who has denied Christ?  Has he lost his soul (2 Timothy 2:12)?  Will he be restored in grace as Peter was after he denied knowing Jesus?  Is he just a normal flesh-and-blood person, who did the rational thing in a crisis, just like the rest of us would have done?  What would you have done in that situation?

Please pray for the believers in this country.  Life is hard for them, as they are marginalised by their compatriots, and find it hard to get jobs.  They risk being attacked, whether individually or as congregations.  A rising current of extremism threatens the notional freedom of religion in this state.  Pray that the political situation would stabilise, that law and order would be established, and freedom of religion protected.  Pray that the suffering Christians would be encouraged, and comforted in their hardship.