So, that was an unexpected turn.
Episode three of Golden Time has our protagonists, Banri Tada and Koko Kaga, along with 2D-kun and a slate of other freshman, getting tricked into spending a weekend with a student cult group very reminiscent of Scientologists (and perhaps more native Japanese groups?). Banri again demonstrates what a nice guy he is as he helps the unwitting fish escape, while we also find out more about both him and Kaga.
It’s easy to have a laugh at the religious group in the series and at those it pokes fun at, but I immediately felt a little discomfort at the scenario. The cultish tactics perhaps hit a little too close to home. Because while Christians separate themselves from cults that may use Christianity in some way, some of their methods to bring non-Christians to church, through rhetoric, events, and borderline trickery, can be somewhat similar.
When talking evangelism, Christians often think about Paul’s words about witnessing:
Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.
– Paul (I Corinthian 9:19-23)
We also reflect on how Paul addresses the Greek by speaking their language when it comes to religion.
On the surface level, this seems to connect to the idea that we should be shifty while witnessing. Maybe we could bend our words a bit, taking wording that’s possibly offensive out of the gospel message. Maybe we can invite friends to an event that they don’t know is evangelism or at least church-focused. Maybe we should partake in these deceptive tactics and half-truths. After all, they aren’t as blatantly untruthful as, say, what the Golden Time cult does.
But other than the obvious (by doing so we don’t practice what we preach and we run the risk of taking the power and truth out of the Gospel message), we also perhaps lose sight of why Paul does what he does. He does what he does out of love, both for God and for people. They aren’t just numbers to him – Paul loves the unsaved desperately. And by becoming “all things to all people,” he is empathizing with them. He tries to know what it’s like to be in their shoes, both out of love and out of faith that God’s message of salvation is universal and that it can apply to anyone anywhere.
And after all, as the saying goes, you attract more flies (sorry for the comparison) with honey than with vinegar. And the Bible describes its words as being sweet as honey. So, an appeal to Christians – be honest and forthright, avoiding deception, even as you empathize with others and get to know them and love them. They may reject your message…but at least there won’t be a midnight escape out of your church and into the woods.