There is a saying, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do”. It essentially means that when you find yourself in a foreign land; abide in the customs of that land.
Another way of putting it is, “When in doubt, watch a Roman and do as they do”. In Japan, my credo is “When in doubt, do as the Japanese do”. After the first day, I expanded my credo to, “Even when not in doubt, do as the Japanese do”.
For example, when riding up or down an escalator, everyone hugs the left side. In America, everyone hugs the middle of the escalator. Why do the Japanese stay on the left side? They favor the left side so that those who are in a hurry can walk up the right side. It’s a custom of the land unless you’re in Osaka where they hug the right side of the escalator.
When in doubt, imitate the indigenous.
This is also a good strategy for Christians. Often times in life, we are not sure exactly how we should act or respond to life’s circumstances and challenges. I am often asked the question, “What should I do?”
When in doubt, do as Jesus would do.Paul says as much in 1 Corinthians 11:1 when he wrote, “Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.” Whenever we find ourselves in a situation where we are not sure how to respond, we should allow the Word of God along with His Holy Spirit to direct our steps. This is tantamount to “doing as Jesus would do”.
If you ever visit Japan and have opportunity to ride up or down an escalator, remember to do as the Japanese do and hug the left side of the escalator. As you find yourself traveling through life, remember to hug Jesus and do as He would do.
Something to think about…
Missions Comment: As already noted, if you are in the Tokyo region of Japan, you hug the left side of the escalator and if you are in Osaka you hug the opposite side of the escalator. Apparently, there is a competitive component to the two regions Japan, which hinders a sense of unity and cooperation. One says left and the other will probably say right. Unfortunately, over the years, many churches in Japan have acted in a similar fashion. There has been a lack of unity and cooperation for the sake of the gospel. In the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami, this seems to be changing in the northeast region of Japan. Perhaps, this will mark the beginning of a spiritual awakening in Japan, which needs the church for it to reach its full potential.