Do you seek opportunities to bless your neighbors?
This is the next question for Part 2 of the "Being a Neighbor" series.
Let's explore an example of what blessing your neighbor looks like in Japanese culture.
おみやげ (omiyage) is one of the cornerstones of Japanese culture. おみやげ is the practice of gift giving. It's common to receive a gift when you invite someone into your home or some type of celebratory occasion. We're also learning the giving end of this as well. Within a week of moving into our neighborhood, our family went around to all surrounding neighbors and gave them おみやげ as a means of introduction.
This isn't a surprise as it would be in American culture. This is actually expected.
Initially I (Justin) was against the idea - go figure; your typical contrarian. Why, you ask? I don't like things that appear obligatory or "that's the way 'we' do it" as a reason. At face value おみやげ appeared as just that - an obligatory way to maintain "harmony" in the relationship. This coming from the missionary on the field less than a year. Then I discovered that Japanese genuinely enjoy this cultural practice. What seemed silly and just a means to avoid relational turmoil was actually something that was a blessing for the Japanese.
Let's return to the Good Samaritan in Luke 10, which I shared about in Part 1 of this series. If you haven't read that post, I encourage you to do so. I gave a brief summary of this famous parable. Notice the great lengths the Good Samaritan goes to bless this total stranger:
"But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying 'Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back'" (Luke 10:33-35).
Wow. The Samaritan blesses this man in ways that are unimaginable. Here's why:
It was culturally unthinkable for a Samaritan to interact with a Jew at any level especially to this extent.
He sacrifices his means of transportation - "his own animal" - since the man was too injured to travel for aid (refer to Luke 10:30 for a description of the man's condition).
Oil and wine weren't cheap. He spent his own resources to medicate and clean this man's wounds.
He takes on the financial responsibility of this man's misfortune. No matter who spent money to care of this man, he made it clear he would pay them back.
Jesus gives vivid description in this account of what it means to bless your neighbor. And keep in mind, this man was a complete stranger to the Samaritan. He had no motive to help him except to bless his fellow man.
What would it look like for you to bless your neighbor in your context? Your co-worker? Your spouse? Those within your immediate sphere of influence?
My tendency can be to care for my own - my wife and kids and no one else...sometimes not even them. Just me. Life is hectic. I have responsibilities. I'm transitioning cultures. I don't know the language well enough yet. I have all sorts of selfish excuses.
But at the end of the day, it's just that - selfish; completely inward and not one bit outward.
The Good Samaritan was completely outward. It cost him everything he had. Let's carry that idea in the final part of this blog series. Stay tuned.
Now back to おみやげ...
About 2 weeks ago I gave in and participated in what I felt was my first genuine おみやげ giving. We took a 3-day vacation as a family with friends to the feet of Mt. Fuji and had the opportunity to buy some small gifts for those that have blessed us.
A few days after our return, Clark and I went over to M-san's house to give some おみやげ (see previous post about her). It was received with warmth and joy. It wasn't obligatory. It wasn't selfish. It was a tangible way to bless our neighbor and add another brick onto our relationship where we hope to continue to share Christ through word and deed.
Do you have an M-san in your life?
Are you adding bricks to your relationships to draw people to Jesus?
Blessing your neighbors can be an honest and simple thing that adds great joy to the relationship. In Japan, the cultural practice of おみやげ is one of the most common ways to "bless" your neighbor.
May we all use the cultural practices of our context for the glory of God and the drawing of all peoples to Jesus.