In Episode 7 (32) of the second season of Nobunaga no Shinobi (Ninja Girl and Samurai Master; check out our review of Season 1 here), we are introduced to the Portuguese Christian missionary Luís Fróis. As with many of the characters in the series, Fróis is based on an actual person who lived in this era who did visit Japan to try to spread the Gospel to the people of Japan.
On the show, he puts up a great face showing that his reason for coming is noble. He wants to share the teaching of Jesus (Deus) across the land. He wants permission from Nobunaga to ensure he can do so safely and without issue. As this is a predominantly non-Christian nation, he wanted to ensure what he did was not going to get shut down and he wanted to be polite, deferring to the local governing structure. In this case, he was deferring to Nobunaga who had amassed quite a bit of authority at this point.
After acting very pius in revealing his desire to serve the Lord, the show implies something else. It implies a secret reason or his actual visit. His love of all things Japanese.
In reality, Fróis was an apparently man focused on the Lord and wrote a lot of histories about the nation, people, and culture of Japan. He did love Japanese culture and society. In the show, it implies that his love of Japan bordered on the idolatrous where he placed Japan and his love of it above everything else…including what was supposed to be at the center. For a Christian missionary, Jesus should be at the center of everything we do. As we’re all called to be missionaries where we are in life, all Christians are called to live a life where our focus is on Jesus.
However, the anime of Fróis was focused selfishly on Earthly things. He was focused on himself and what he could gain from visiting Japan. His heart was in a selfish place, which is not good for his own personal walk with Christ. All that said, he was still in Japan to share the Gospel of Christ. He may have also partook of the culture in the process, but his ultimate job was to tell people about Jesus. And he did even though he was being selfish instead of a selfless servant leader. Yet, I ask an odd question – does his selfish focus make a difference if Jesus is still being glorified, preached, and shared accurately?
Paul talks about this a bit in Philippians 1:15-18. In this passage, we find Paul writing from a prison cell to Christian believers in Philippi. He’s being asked about some preachers who are out there selfishly talking about Jesus and sharing His story in public for one reason – to hurt Paul more. Weird, but it was apparently happening in Philippi. Paul responds to the controversy by surprisingly saying that he didn’t care. Why? Cause the most important part was that these people were telling others about Jesus. Even if they did so to hurt Paul, he did not care and would gladly take the abuse if Jesus’ story was still being shared correctly. If Fróis’ motivation is selfish as to why he went to Japan, does it matter if he still is actively telling people about the true Jesus? If he is still sharing the Gospel message, does it matter if he really, really wants to visit the Kai Hot Springs too? Not necessarily as long as he is still glorifying Jesus as opposed to actively disparaging the Lord – this flawed, weak, and imperfect vessel will still be used for God’s glory.
I recently watched an episode of Season 3 of the American TV series the Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt which partially took place in a church. To comedic effect the characters called out their own personal failings in the middle of a church service. In so doing, shared the Gospel message in a variety of ways that we’re all broken, flawed people who need Jesus to save us from ourselves. No, I doubt the creators of the show were intending to actively share the Gospel, however the Gospel was shared nonetheless. Did their motives really matter if others hear it and actually want to learn more about the Biblical Jesus?
This is not to say that focusing on the wrong things, focusing on ourselves and being selfish is good. Of course it’s not. However, let’s never forget that we are all selfish, weak, and imperfect vessels. If we’re still sharing the Gospel, God is still getting glory. Even when we or Fróis are being weak or focusing wrongly, if we’re still sharing God’s message, we have reason to rejoice.
Nobunaga No Shinobi can be streamed legally on Crunchyroll in the United States.