Hiroo Onoda refused to surrender. Onoda was a lieutenant in the
Japanese army during World War II. As part of army intelligence he
had been sent to Lubang, 90 miles southwest of the Philippine
capital Manila, in December 1944. Three months later Allied troops
landed on the island and Japanese troops began surrendering.
But not Onada. He refused to give up and headed for the jungle with
three other soldiers. Soldiers in the Imperial Army followed a code
that said death was preferable to surrender. One of the soldiers left the jungle in 1950. Two others died. Onada remained stealing rice and bananas from villagers and carrying on occasional guerilla warfare following the last orders he had been given.
This lasted until February 20, 1974 when a young traveler named Norio Suzuki—in search of Onada—made camp in jungle clearings and just waited. Onada was the one to make contact and they began to talk. Suzuki told authorities about Onada. They sent his commanding officer to bring him to surrender. He was pardoned by the Philippine government and went home to a hero’s welcome.
He said, “I do everything twice as fast so I can make up for the 30 years. I wish someone could eat and sleep for me so I can work 24 hours a day.” He was the last Japanese soldier to surrender and died January 16, 2014.
In my honest moments I can relate to Onada. I don’t much like to surrender either. Can you relate? You want to think your own thoughts, do your own thing, and live as you see fit. Surrender implies that we live as someone else tells us to. Who wants that?
The Apostle Paul says that God wants that. He calls it being a “living sacrifice.” But the problem with living sacrifices is they keep crawling off the altar. So in Romans 12 Paul pens the path to surrender.
The first step is to transform our minds by the Word. “Transform” is the word “metamorphoo” or metamorphosis. Transformation happens when we think differently. And we think differently when we give our minds to God’s word and our thinking is renovated.
The second step is to be a part of the body, or community of faith. Paul says we are each “members” of the body. For transformation to happen we need to be connected to others and “not think more highly of ourselves than we ought to think.” This is not a false humility. It is understanding that the process of transformation happens when we are part of a community of grace and truth.
And the final step Paul lays out on the path to surrender is that of radical obedience. In verse 9-21 he describes how a person who has been transformed will behave and what kinds of attitudes he will have: a genuine love, a hatred of evil, blessing those who persecute, harmonious living, feeding your enemy, and overcoming evil with good are some he mentions. A surrendered life is one that has been obedient to the words of Jesus and not merely a hearer only.
It’s time to raise a white flag and surrender. Don’t wait as long as Onada did. You’ll miss too much life if you do.
— Excerpt from the BELIEVE Study Series by Randy Freeze