(Message delivered during the Intercessory Program of PAC 7/13/2013. My gratitude overflows to that person who encouraged me and prayed for me. All photos courtesy of Wikipedia)
They had no choice.
They were told either they would be convicted and executed as criminals or they would die as samurai by committing suicide. Those were times where concepts of honor and duty were sacred.
The men were samurai under the household of Asano Naganori. Their story is not really something worth emulating but we can pick up a lot of lessons from their story.
Asano Naganori was a rich daimyo who owned a large area of land. His household had more than a hundred samurai aside from servants. As honor and dishonor were highly regarded in their time, he was enraged when a corrupt court official named Kira Yoshinaka insulted him. In his anger he attacked the man and severely wounding him in the face.
As punishment for attacking, Asano was ordered to commit seppuku. His family, servants and samurai were also considered dishonorable. In revenge, the remaining 47 samurai loyal to their daimyo planned to kill Kira and offer his head to their master’s grave. Being without a master, they were now called ronin.
Lead by a the most trusted ronin named Oishi. It took two years of careful and stealthy planning to execute their master’s enemy. To avoid the spies of their master’s enemy, their leader pretended to be losing his mind and will to live. Oshi spent two years living like a drunkard, spending night and day in brothels. People in the neighborhood already had the impression that the Ronin had lost courage and face to avenge their master. He kept the act in public to put off the guard of the court official, Kira. However, each night, the 47 secretly met, reviewed their plot and re-committed themselves to their code as samurai.
After two years, Kira lifted his guard, thinking that the 47 ronin had already given up on their plot to avenge their master. As soon as this was done, the 47 ronin surrounded the house one night and exacted their vengeance.
After that night, only Kira Yoshinaka died. His household, his guards were all spared save sixteen who tried to fight back. After exacting revenge, the men turned themselves in to the authorities. On their way to the Edo Castle, they were lauded by everyone for keeping their honor and for following the samurai code. At the trial, they were given the option of being executed as criminals or dying as samurai. Their tombs are now a tourist attraction in Japan.
Now, that’s not a really good story. Maybe it sounds something out of fiction but this truly happened. It is historical and accounts may be varied and sketchy but scholars agree that it really happened.
Now I find it amazing how these 47 men still pursued their master’s enemy despite being dead. What’s more amazing is how they truly adhere to their code. Bushido, the code of the samurai is a code that protects honor and promotes justice.
We may not be samurai. We may not be adept with sword or arrows. However we learn a valuable lesson from these men, no matter how bloody their hands may be, they adhered to their code. They committed themselves to their master and respected the lives of the innocent. In the same manner, we are called to adhere to our master, Jesus Christ and cultivate a life of adherence to the code: the code of the Gospel of Christ.
Imagine how these men committed themselves to do their master’s bidding. They even went so far as to have that willingness to kill and commit suicide for their master. Imagine how dedicated they were to their goal that they were even willing to make themselves the laughing stock of the public. They allowed themselves to go so low in humiliation.
We may not be exacting revenge, but we are still beset by an enemy. We may not be after the head of a man, but our enemy is after our hearts. Therefore, we need to meet in fellowship regularly, review our code regularly and to remember our master daily. We may live in humiliation, shame, problems and worry, but we have to keep in our hearts that Christ lives in us and that we are given the grace and love for free. Allow ourselves to be lead, even through the darkest paths to improve our lives.
God leads His people on step by step. The Christian life is a constant battle and a march. There is no rest from the warfare. It is by constant, unceasing effort that we maintain the victory over the temptations of Satan. As a people we are triumphing in the clearness and strength of the truth. We are fully sustained in our positions by an overwhelming amount of plain scriptural testimony. But we are very much wanting in Bible humility, patience, faith, love, self-denial, watchfulness, and the spirit of sacrifice. We need to cultivate Bible holiness. Sin prevails among the people of God.
It is not enough to merely profess to believe the truth. All the soldiers of the cross of Christ virtually obligate themselves to enter the crusade against the adversary of souls, to condemn wrong and sustain righteousness. But the message of the True Witness reveals the fact that a terrible deception is upon our people, which makes it necessary to come to them with warnings, to break their spiritual slumber, and arouse them to decided action.–Testimonies for the Church 3:253, 254.
Like the 47 ronin of Japanese history, let us cultivate that strict adherence and dedication to our master, Jesus Christ. He does not want us dead, but He wants us to live in Him. May we recommit our lives to Him as we go about our daily lives.