Warning: Spoilers for Yakuza: Like a Dragon Below!
God tells Christians that two commandments encompass all the Law: Love the Lord Your God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind, and love your neighbor as yourself (Luke 10:27-28). This second part is interesting: how do we love our neighbors as we love ourselves? Jesus showed us throughout His ministry on Earth how to love our neighbors. This love can range from menial tasks to tasks that may demand we stretch our comfort zone. Jesus went to people and helped them with their issues and ailments. And while there were quite a few instances where Jesus did things that most humans cannot do, such as perform miracles to heal people, this fact does not downplay God’s calling. Ichiban Kasuga from the game Yakuza: Like a Dragon shows us how loving our neighbor can look in a more contemporary setting.
Like a Dragon and a Lamb
Ichiban Kasuga was a member of the Arakawa Family of the Yakuza, the Japanese mafia. The story of Yakuza: Like a Dragon shows how Ichiban helps various people. He did not discriminate who he helped, being at the sides of the bottom rungs of society and some of the more affluent. Ichiban assisted in easy, simple tasks as well as issues that demanded much more of him. Jesus offered His assistance in much the same way.
Jesus conversed with prostitutes, saved adulterers from the Pharisees, and ate with tax collectors. He even met with the Pharisee Nicodemus, who was sincerely interested in who Jesus was. Jesus was ready to help anybody willing to accept His help. This attitude is illustrated magnificently in the parable of the Good Samaritan, found in Luke 10:25-37. To paraphrase: thieves robbed a Jewish man bound for Jericho and left the poor man stranded. A priest and a Levite both passed by the beaten man without assisting him. A Samaritan man, a member of an ethnicity not well-liked by the Jewish folk, stopped and helped the man.
“Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.” Luke 10:36-37
Jesus overtly stated that anybody in need who we come across is our neighbor. Ethnicity, gender, class, or political ideology has no place in determining who our neighbors are. Ichiban initially helps Nanba, a homeless nurse who healed Ichiban’s wounds when his Patriarch—that is, the leader of his Yakuza Family, similar to a Don in the Italian Mafia—shot him. As a token of thanks, Ichiban helps Nanba with his duties at the homeless camp. The two soon become friends, and Nanba joins Ichiban on his adventures throughout Yakuza: Like a Dragon.
So how do we as Christians go about loving our neighbors as ourselves? The easiest and first step: help them with tasks they may have. Helping a neighbor with yard work, making them dinner, or running an errand for them are relatively easy ways to be loving. Ichiban helps his fellow man in these seemingly menial ways at times. He helped Nanba collect aluminum cans from around town so they could have money. Even if these tasks don’t seem like they help much, they can mean the world to the person you are helping.
How do we know who needs help around us? Ichiban isn’t afraid to ask people if they need help. He saw where the needs were, and he went to fulfill them. Jesus, too, was like this. Jesus went to others to assist them, and people came to Him for help as well. Humans tend to associate themselves with various communities, be it those near where we live, our Church families, or communities of individuals who share similar hobbies.
As Christians, we can start in these communities to help our neighbors. For example, let’s suppose that a person in your regular friday night Magic group doesn’t show up one week. You can call or text that person to see what has happened and offer assistance. Maybe this person was sick, or perhaps they had a family emergency. Helping this person can be as simple as providing prayer over their situation. you also could provide meals or snacks to help them through this tough time. Sometimes, however, our neighbors’ needs could be more than just a simple meal.
Outside the Comfort Zone
Jesus and Ichiban also went above and beyond menial tasks to help their neighbors. Jesus healed a paralyzed man on the Sabbath, which we find in John 5:2-17. This healing feat was looked down upon by the religious leaders of the day. The Sabbath was a holy day, and people were not to do any work. Jesus healing the paralyzed man was directly in conflict with the Pharisees’ rules of the Sabbath, making him a target of these leaders.
Ichiban and his friends found themselves in a similarly difficult situation.A nursing home extorted a friend for her money, stating the money was for her father’s treatments. Ichiban and his party find out the Yakuza run the nursing home, and they kill anybody who cannot afford their “protective services.” Ichiban also discovers who the Family the offending Yakuza came from and informs their Patriarch of the situation. This action saved numerous innocent lives. We may not necessarily have to help in such grave cases, but big problems can erupt in our neighbors’ lives.
Loving our neighbor may bring us to situations where the neighbor may need more than just menial assistance. Our neighbors may need help that stretches us a bit farther from our comfort zone. These situations can include helping the person rebuild a section of their house after an emergency, helping to watch children if they have to go somewhere emergently, or staying by their side as they die in the hospital. The Good Samaritan incurred a financial loss and a possible social stigma for helping the robbed Jewish man. The good news is, we don’t have to do these tasks alone.
Ichiban consistently had friends with him who were willing to help him when he was doing things for his neighbors. We, too, have people around us who may be glad to help should we just ask them. Our churches and other communities are great places to ask for help, and generally, at least one other person is willing to assist others. A larger group can help spread the cost associated with helping others with big crises or problems. For example, a group of ten people can help a person rebuild a deck after a nasty storm faster and more safely than a group of two.
My brothers and sisters, how we can love our neighbor extends well beyond the examples given in this article, and only you can find the best ways to love the neighbors in your life. I encourage you to find the needs in your community and fulfill them to the best of your ability. After all, we are all to be like Jesus to our world.