- The Way - Proud to be an Eta

'The Way' with Kevin Pauley
Originally posted on 09/15/2020

Proud to be an Eta

"If the world hates you, understand that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own. However, because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of it, the world hates you. Remember the word I spoke to you: 'A slave is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will also keep yours.” - John 15:18-20 HCSB

Back in the days of feudal Japan, a caste system developed that had the emperor and his courtiers at the very top and a group of people referred to as “etas” at the very bottom. “Eta” literally meant “full of filth.” To be an eta meant that you were a societal outcast. One shogun valued etas at one seventh of a human being.

They were genetically identical to the rest of the Japanese. They were not foreigners. They were not of a different color or physiognomy. Why were they so despised? The fateful difference was what they did – the jobs they performed.

Both Shinto and Zen Buddhism teach that objects can carry ethical quality. They can become so identified with evil or good that they become intrinsically evil or good. Since the etas worked with dead bodies, or in leatherworks or other ritualistically unclean jobs, they were believed to lose societal value. Of course, this was absurd, because all the other castes depended on the etas’ work. The Samurai also dealt with the dead, since they killed people constantly, and they touched leather all the time since their armor and parts of their swords were leather. Yet they were considered high caste! It was completely arbitrary.

However, the bigotry continues to this very day. Though concerted efforts have been made to remove this silliness from Japanese mentality, it is still difficult for the descendants of the eta (called burakumin today) to find jobs or to marry outside of their social level.

Christ came and did something wonderful and vital for human society and was killed for His efforts. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of suffering who knew what sickness was. He was like one people turned away from; He was despised, and we didn't value Him. Yet He Himself bore our sicknesses, and He carried our pains; but we in turn regarded Him stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted.[1]

When we lovingly imitate our Master, we not only do His works, but we try to surpass Him.[2] We shoulder some of the world’s pain and suffering. We break the chains of wickedness, untie yokes, set the oppressed free, feed the hungry, show hospitality to the poor and homeless and clothe the naked – all while not neglecting our own families.[3]

If that means that we are looked down upon by the powerful and the elite, so be it. Let’s gladly claim the title of eta.

[1] Isaiah 53:3-4

[2] John 14:12

[3] Isaiah 58:6-7

Meet the Author:
I make no claim of superior wisdom or originality. I am a student, just like everyone else. My goal in writing is to simply share whatever God chooses to teach me (many times by my children or parishioners) on any given day. I hope the devotionals are a blessing to you.

Kevin Pauley is a pastor and writer. He lives in Illinois with his wife, Lynn, their five children and two dogs. His internet address is Berea.

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