Okay, I admit it, I'm a fan of Naruto. Perhaps I'm too old to be reading mangas (Japanese style comics), but don't lie, you probably enjoy shows/movies designed for children, I'm not alone.
Naruto Uzumaki is the star character in a world made up of ninjas. The world of Naruto is one saturated with Eastern culture. It plays off of beliefs that there's a supernatural life force within all of us, and all we have to do is tap into it. Some people call it chi/ki (sound familiar, DBZ fans?), Naruto calls it chakra. With chakra, ninja's are able to perform ninjutsu - essentially magical feats only achievable by ninjas.
I don't believe young kids should grow up thinking that supernatural things like magic or chakra don't have any equivalent in this world. The truth is that there are sources of supernatural power in this world: God and Satan. Perhaps some of the "magic" can be explained by science in today's day and age, but not all of it. For instance, when Jesus divided the five loaves of bread and two fish to feed five thousand people and have twelve basketfuls of leftovers, he was using supernatural power provided by God, it has no scientific explanation. When Moses confronted the priests of Pharaoh, and they copied his miracle of turning a staff into a snake, they were using supernatural power provided by Satan. However, God's power is much more powerful than Satan's: recall how Moses' snake ate the two other snakes before it turned back into Moses' staff.
But like I said before, I'm a fan of Naruto. There's a few lessons that we can learn from the brat who turned into a hero.
1. Naruto never gave up on his dream
Now, I would be among the last to declare that we should make a goal and believe in ourselves. I believe that we should believe in Jesus, and make it our goal to glorify him. However, there is something inspiring about those who rise to a challenge and never give up.
Naruto spent the first years of his life without a single friend. He was alone. Perhaps this is why he dreamed of becoming the Hokage - the leader of his village - so that people would acknowledge him. He held onto this dream, even when everyone around him mocked him about it.
As Christians, it doesn't matter how many people acknowledge us, the only one who's approval that really matters in the end is God. Do you know what my dream is, what would make me more happy than anything else? To be able to stand before God and hear him say, "well done, my good and faithful servant." Regardless of any opposition that stands in my way, I will hold on to this dream.
2. Naruto didn't let the demon inside of him define him
What set Naruto apart from the rest was that he had a demon-fox sealed up inside of him from birth. This was the reason Naruto didn't have any friends during the first years of his life - he was the host of a beast that threatened the very safety of their village.
We are all born evil at heart. But we all have a choice to battle that evil or succumb to it. Ultimately the evil in us will not be purified until we accept Jesus as our Lord and Saviour. When this happens, we won't be evil at the core, but we will still have our bodily desires distracting us from doing what we need to do.
Those who become Christians find their identity in Christ, not in their old evil selves.
3. Naruto is brave, persistent, and always gave it his all
It didn't matter what the challenge was in front of Naruto, he had the steadfastness to give it his best and not to give up. Whether it be training how to walk up a tree without using his hands, to learning a new fighting move, to fighting an opponent who was much stronger than he was, Naruto never gave up.
Each one of us is presented with situations that are seemingly much larger than we are able to handle. I believe that we can take a tip from Naruto and put on a brave face and give it our best regardless of the situation.
Unlike Naruto, who relied on his own abilities to see him through challenges, we are to trust in God to get us through situations. God is bigger than any situation, so there's no reason why we should be too afraid to do anything he wants us to do.
Hebrews 12: Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
4. Naruto had honor
He called it "my ninja way." It really didn't matter if his ninja way didn't match up with anyone else's: he knew what he believed to be right and would stick to it. He wouldn't break his promise because that was his ninja way. He would rather die or remain a fool than to give up on his ninja way.
As Christians, much of what we do is seemingly foolish to the world around us. Why do we spend so much time and effort refraining from drunkenness, sex, greed, etc., when the world around us does all of it unashamedly? As a young adult, I often had peers telling me that I'm missing out on a lot of fun because I wouldn't go to parties or get wasted. To them I was living foolishness, but like Naruto, I was living with my ninja way.
However, my ninja way isn't based on my own sense of right and wrong, as Naruto's may have been. God expects us as Christians to act a certain way, and we do so out of love and appreciation for what he has done. So when the world sees things such as homosexuality and abortions as things that are even encouraged at times, and sees anyone who disagrees as foolish, may we as Christians stand firm on what is right, the solid ground provided by God himself.
5. Naruto didn't give up on his friend, despite betrayal
Naruto's primary rival throughout the series was his friend Sasuke. They were never good friends; they were more like brothers who fought a lot but would sacrifice their lives for each other when it came down to it (whether they knew it or not).
Sasuke, however, had his own dream - a dream that involved revenge. He let his hatred guide his path, and ended up betraying not only Naruto but his hometown village.
When Sasuke was in the process of leaving the village out of his own volition, Naruto made the promise that he would get Sasuke back. Like I said earlier, Naruto didn't give up on his promises because that was his ninja way.
However, Sasuke allied himself with an enemy of Naruto's village, making him an enemy to the whole village. But not to Naruto: he still vowed to do everything in his power to bring his friend back, despite Sasuke's clear statement that he wanted nothing to do with Naruto anymore.
I absolutely love this loyalty. How many of us have friends who betrayed us? How many of us are still friends with said people?
I can't help but think about marriages right now. Marriages are meant to be permanent ventures.
Do you hear that? When a man and a woman are joined in consummated marriage, they are joined together by God. Why then are people so quick to have a divorce? Where is the loyalty to each other no matter what happens? This is one of my greatest laments about today's society. The new generation is growing up thinking that divorces are no big deal and to be expected, and they go into marriages preparing themselves for divorce.
6. Naruto knew the world he lived in wasn't right
It was a world of wars, fighting, and killing. What Naruto also dreamed of, on top of being Hokage, was a world at peace. Time and time again he came across opponents reminding him that he was living in a shinobi- a ninja's world, where fighting and strife was to be expected and he should get used to it. However, Naruto never gave in to this world view. He continued to fight for peace throughout the series.
As Christians, we know that this world isn't all there is; there's more to come after death. In life it seems like whatever we do, we cannot change the way of the world. However, God will eventually bring peace and happiness, and it's our job to make sure that as much people experience the joy of the Lord both in this life and in the next.
Okay, maybe I'm a bit of a loser paying so much attention to Naruto. On the plus side, however, I bet you'll never read something along the same lines of this anywhere else. And if you do, that's more than alright: what good is the creative stories of our culture unless it teaches us important lessons about God and his plan for our lives?