This week I have been reading and learning a lot about Mahatma Gandhi. There was a documentary on Sunday about him, and that inspired me to do a bit of research, and also to watch ‘Gandhi’ the superb Oscar-winning biopic starring Ben Kingsley. Now the man wasn’t a Christian, but the more I looked at how he lived his life, his values, his motivation, his attitude and how he treated people, the more I see a life lived by Christ-like values, and which reflected the nature and character of Jesus more than many Christians I know – including myself. Ghandi was a Hindu, but was a student of many religions. He read the Bible, and was even quoted once as saying ‘Yes I am (a Hindu). I am also a Christian, a Muslim, a Buddhist and a Jew.”
It appears to me that although the man was himself a Hindu, he certainly understood the teachings of Jesus and valued them greatly.
One quote I found from Ghandhi was very insightful though, and so true in terms of a lot of people’s perceptions of Christians.
“I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians.”
How insightful is that?
I think it reflects what a lot of people outside the church especially, think about Christianity. The essential message of Jesus and His life they get and understand, but they don’t get how people who follow it can be so religious, legalistic and unlike Christ. And the way that we communicate it to them is often very poor, lets be honest.
Now what’s important here is to qualify this.
No Christians are perfect, and by definition every Christian is a hypocrite.
Christians aren’t this separate species of people, who suddenly become perfect and don’t make any mistakes just because we believe a certain thing to be true.
We all screw up at times, we all make mistakes just like everyone else. We aren’t above everyone else or better than everyone else, we don’t have a moral claim on the world and we don’t have a right to sit in judgement or look at those who don’t believe as any different, or worse than ourselves. Its a total disgrace to the name of Jesus to even think like that.
If anyone who claims to be Christian acts like that, then they aren’t following the example of Jesus – He was the one who did have the right, and He never did. In fact He reserved His harshest criticism for religious people, not for people outside the church.
“Let he who is without sin cast the first stone”
Perhaps us Christians should learn a lesson from that.
There are churches and Christians with this attitude, and I’ve experiened them myself. It’s usually on a very subconcious level, by people who genuinely care and want to help, whose intentions are good. But I’ve heard it and seen it in the past, and it sickens me. Its those Christians and churches that people are usually describing when they talk about why they don’t go to church – and for good reason.
(And yes, before we continue, I’m aware that I sound slightly judgemental saying all this. But this is only my considered opinion from a bit of my own experience and from a lot of reflection and thought. I am saying it because I’m passionate about Jesus and want His message to be communicated in the best and truest sense. Its not a personal attack or judgement on anyone, its how I think things are. The church needs to have the right perspective on what the message of Jesus means, and we need to be united in that common cause, and that’s what I’m trying to do. Whether you agree or disagree is up to you.)
The problem is that many of these Christians simply don’t know they are doing this, because they come from a religious, Christian subculture which encourages it. Their intentions are good and they love Jesus, but the tone and essence of their message doesn’t paint Jesus in His true perspective. It shows parts of the truth, and sometimes works because of this, but it never gives the full picture.
Its a limited perspective and because of this often comes across badly
This whole issue comes from this idea that has been touted about for years that following Jesus is all about the forgiveness of sins and nothing else. The ‘Genesis 3′ worldview of Jesus being all about sin, and rules, and religion. That you accept Jesus and suddenly all your sins are forgiven and you can carry on your life near enough as it was, with a few minor differences, because you’ve got your ticket to heaven. Jesus is all about taking care of sin, and that’s all.
It narrows down Jesus and isn’t the full story. Certainly not according to the words of Jesus and the scriptures, all of which speak of the ‘restoration of all things’.
Jesus came to showed us how to live a life as God originally designed us to live, and then sacrified Himself on a Roman execution stake after a Roman flogging, being rejected by all.
This made possible the restoration of the world to how God originally designed it to be – including mankinds’ rejection of God – or ‘sin’.
From then on its all been about the human race participating with God in the restoration of all things to how God always intended them, restoring the relationship between man and God, and bringing heaven and earth back together again, as it was in Genesis 1 & 2, how God originally designed it to be.
That’s the real picture.
It changes everything in terms of how followers of Jesus should speak with people who don’t know Jesus and what their attitude should be towards them.
It changes everything that traditionally is associated with ‘being a Christian’ and how some Christians and churches often speak, behave and treat people.
Instead of judgement, hypocrisy and condemnation it becomes about restoration, about finding our true identity, about making this world better, about grace and mercy, about finding God’s best for us and bringing heaven and earth more and more back together and about us all being the same before God – all saved by grace and invited to be part of God’s kingdom, and none of us being totally perfect.
It gives us real, genuine hope.
It tells us the simple truth that we might feel like we are worthless, but we are actually worth everything, and we are welcomed and loved as we are.
Gandhi may not have been a Christian, but he embodied a lot of the qualities that Christ asks us all to take on. If he had been a Christian he probably would have had a huge evangelical impact on the world.
Not many of us will ever be quite like Gandhi, but we don’t have to be Gandhi to embody the qualities of Jesus, the qualities of humility, servanthood, love, grace, mercy, justice, truth and forgiveness.
It starts with us making little changes to our lives and try and bring these values and truths and make them part of our everyday, in all our habits, at work, in how we treat people and talk to people, in the decisions we make – big and small.
If we are choosing everyday to follow Jesus way and not our own, then we will be building His kingdom, helping restore this world to how God intended, and, little by little, bringing heaven back to earth.
Now that’s something worth talking about.