The word ‘kamikaze’ translates as ‘divine wind’. During the Second World War, Japanese pilots were trained to fly their planes into Allied war ships. The planes were laden with explosives and had a devastating impact on the target. The pilot left on his mission knowing that if he were successful, his life would be sacrificed.
In parts of the world today suicide bombers lay down their lives as an act of divine vengeance on their enemies. These are people who will die for a cause they believe to be greater than their own life.
The call of Jesus to lay down our lives is distinctly different from these other suicide missions. In acts of war and aggression a life is sacrificed in order to destroy other lives and property.
In the suicide mission of Jesus, the disciple lays down their life in non-violence and lives again to empty themselves for the sake of God’s Kingdom. This is our Kamikaze call. We are Divine Wind Disciples. And each time we die for the cause, we live to die another day.
What was Jesus calling us to? Jesus knew more than we do about living and dying. Many times his cryptic teachings answered deep questions in the heart of listeners. Others were deeply offended and turned away.
‘Living to die’ and ‘dying to live’ is not the same thing. You can selfishly take your life or selflessly give it away. There is a difference between committing suicide and accepting a suicide mission.
Jesus uses strong language to explain the cost of accepting His mission.
The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life (v. 25). The word for life (psyche) does not only refer to physical life; it is more comprehensive than that, taking in one's whole being, one's "self." The self was not created to be an autonomous center of being, but rather to be in union with God and receive life from him. The love of this self as such is at the heart of all sin, beginning with the rebellion in the Garden of Eden. That rebellion brought death and continues to bring death. When Jesus says the one who loves this self will lose it he does not mean "misplaces" it but rather "destroys" it.[i]
When Jesus says to hate yourself or hate your family, he is talking about your choices and attachments. It is not choosing to despise and reject but to be devoted and obedient to Jesus in a single-minded way. Do not let anyone or anything distract you from the greater love found in Jesus. We choose to hate that which coddles our rebellion and detachment from God.
"Self must be displaced by another; the endless, shameless focus on self must be displaced by focus on Jesus Christ, who is the supreme revelation of God" (Carson 1991:439). This death to the false self is a form of suffering. Christ's call may also include actual physical suffering as well: like master, like disciple (cf. 15:18--16:4). "Christ draws men to fellowship with himself, alike in suffering and in the presence of God" (Beasley-Murray 1987:212).[ii]