One of my favorite anime antagonists is Shishio, the evildoer from the Kyoto Arc of Rurouni Kenshin. Shishio looks like a mummy, replaced Kenshin as the battousai, is never really bested by Kenshin with the sword, and in the dubbed version of the show, he’s voiced by always-awesome Steven Blum. What’s not to love (or hate)?
As Kenshin goes on a journey to defeat Shishio, the hero realizes early on that he’s not strong enough as is to defeat him. To gain the necessary skills to stop Shishio, Kenshin returns to his old master, Seijuro, to learn an ultimate skill. His sensei ultimately presses him into developing the technique, Amakakeru Ryū no Hirameki (episode 43). But the most interesting thing isn’t the technique itself – it’s how the disciple learns it. Ultimately, it must be learned by using it on one’s teacher in an attempt to break the sensei’s otherwise unbreakable defense. And in doing so, the learner kills his master.
Seijuro lays down his life to teach the technique to Kenshin.
This teaching seems a bit extreme – but this is anime after all. Reminiscent of Unohana’s teaching of Kenpachi in Bleach, there has to be great sacrifice for the result that’s received. And although Seijuro doesn’t actually die – Kenshin is using his reverse blade, after all – is there any question that this noble and hard man wouldn’t be willing to die in this situation, having determined, finally, that Kenshin is worthy of learning it?
In our lives, the positions are switched. We are the learners and God the master, but whereas God has already laid down his life for us, we’re now called to do the same, and in that way, we’re like Seijuro. And also like Kenshin’s teacher, we must ask the question, is it worth it? Is it worth laying down our lives?
Right now, missionaries across the world are in dangerous circumstances, and some will follow the martyrs down through the history of the Church, spreading the gospel to unreached people groups at the cost of their very lives. Even for those as zealous as missionaries, the emotional weight of not knowing whether your sacrifice would bear fruit must be challenging. Like a missionary going to his death, Seijuro approaches his not knowing whether Kenshin will succeed or not.
Imagine being a missionary who is about to be executed without seeing conversions occur. Really, God? You’re letting me die and not one single person was saved?
Most of us will never go on long term missions, but as several on our staff are now doing, I hope you’ll participate in global missions somehow. But even if you don’t go, you still must determine whether it’s worth it to die for the sake of Christ, to put aside our hopes and dreams and wishes and desires. We must count the cost and make a decision.
I hope your answer to God is yes, remembering who you are and who God is and what Christ has done. And perhaps in meditating upon these things, you’ll remember that this life is no longer your own. After all, for Christians, the old life is dead and gone and we no longer live, but it is Christ who lives in us (Galatians 2:20).