Japanese homes are usually reserved for family, and friends rather meet up at cafés. When Christians open their homes and invite people over for meals, it is a witness to others.
‘And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.’ Acts 2: 46-47 ESV
When we read about the early church in Acts, we see that eating together in homes was a part of the beginnings of the fellowship of church. As I reflect on this, I often think about how in Japanese culture many decades ago there was a sense of community where many would meet to have food together in the home or so it seems from the historical books I have read on Japan. Today, it is a different story.
Today, it is uncommon for people outside of extended family to share a meal together in someone’s home. Of course, there are always exceptions, but for most households it seems to be the case across the nation.
As I walk around my local neighborhood, it is rare to find a house or apartment with curtains open no matter when in the day or evening I walk. This surprised me when I moved to Japan, as it is very different to both Australian and Norwegian cultures. It indicates to me that for many the house is a place to sleep, but not necessarily to invite people in.
It’s not that Japanese people do not want to eat with others, the cafes are full of friends chatting over a slice of cake with their coffee, which is lovely to see. However, there is an element of more effort when one invites someone for a meal within their home.
I have such fond memories from being a recipient of families from church inviting me into their homes. Seeing different families from church interact with each other over dinner was a witness to me of Jesus’ generosity, hospitality, and friendship.
I was very grateful for the effort these families would go to, to ensure I felt welcomed and fed. This is something I am reminded of when we have guests and they have left for the night, and I am cleaning up.
I was talking with my Japanese friend over lunch one day and we got onto the topic of Christian traditions at Christmas time. I spoke of my Australian experience of Christmas lunch being the main meal where families come together to celebrate the birth of Jesus. ‘
I also spoke of this time being one where if someone does not have a family that they can have Christmas lunch with, often many church families will invite these ones to their family Christmas lunch. My friend was surprised by this gesture of kindness at such a family-oriented Christmas tradition.
I have noticed at our local Japanese church when we do have meals together, whether it be a few or many, it brings such joy to everyone.
My husband and I did not necessarily think opening our home was such a big part of us being missionaries in Japan. However, the more we invite the Japanese into our home for a meal, it has opened such opportunity to build deeper friendship than a brief conversation after church on a Sunday. We can also be a witness of Jesus’ love throughout the week.
Many non-Christians, I believe, want to see if our faith is just on a Sunday morning, or is our faith daily? We are blessed to have a home we can use as a blessing to others.
Please pray that as missionaries across Japan open their homes, the Japanese will see the love of Christ through their hospitality and come to salvation. Please pray for the Japanese Christians to open their own homes as one way to evangelize to their friends and co-workers.