A Christian missionary to India once reportedly asked the great modern day spiritual (ie, unspiritual) leader Mahatma Gandhi why he spoke so much about and so similarly ascribed to the views of Christ, yet was not a Christian; Gandhi’s famous response was, “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” Supposedly, Gandhi’s rejection of Christians stemmed from an incident in South Africa while he was practicing law as a young man. He apparently had become attracted to Christianity through reading the Scriptures, especially the words of Christ, yet upon attempting to worship at, and I’m guessing here, an all white folks congregation in apartheid South Africa, he was rejected from entering, thus beginning his rejection of Christianity.
I don’t know how much of that is actually true, but for the sake of argument, let’s assume, despite all those stupid cliché’s about knowing what happens when you assume, that it is. I’m wondering if Gandhi ever read John 7. Not that John 7 reveals any more or less shocking information than John 6 or 8, but I just happen to be reading 7 this morning, and as always, Jesus’ words pierce my stupid, human heart. Jesus, the fully human Jesus, was quite a wordsmith:
- In a sarcastic tone: “My time is not yet come, but your time is always ready” (v6, emphasis mine).
- Spoken with forceful gentleness: “The world cannot hate you, but it hates Me because I testify of it that its works are evil” (v7).
- Again, sarcastically: “I did one work, and you all marvel” (v21, emphasis again mine).
- Did you know He qualified how we should judge others? “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment” (v24).
- In reference to His Messiahship, which defined Him as God: “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink” (v37). (**NOTE** This reference was likely and appropriately made on the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles during a processional in which the priests drew water from Siloam pool and marched to the temple to pour it out as a sacrifice, symbolizing God’s blessing of rain on the Jews’ crops. Similarly, the waters had come to foreshadow the Messiah’s return to rescue the Jews and set up His earthly reign, as taken from OT passages in Ezekiel and Zechariah).
So in one small chapter of Jesus’ life on earth, He used sarcasm at least twice (go read the context if you don’t believe me), called His brothers evil, instructed us to judge others, and referred to Himself as God. Thus, Christians worship a judging, name-calling, sarcastic man-God. Is this the Jesus you had in mind, Gandhi?
Like many folks with whom I speak about Christ today, Gandhi barred his heart from fully accepting Christ because of the hypocrisy in (some) of those claiming Christ as King. But throwing out the proverbial baby just because the water got dirty during the bath is like sending back a delicious Ruth’s Chris Ribeye because it was plated with green squash instead of yellow, and didn’t jive with your obsessive fetish with the color green. That’s not the greatest analogy since Ruth’s Chris brings your meal a la carte, but the point is this: the overall good of Christ is worth enduring the bad of “Christians” simply because we have Christ. In Christ, there is eternal life.
I wonder if Gandhi recalled the words of Jesus in Matthew 7, when He said not everyone who claims to know Him actually do. I wonder if he remembered every single interaction Jesus had with the Pharisees, which always ended with the Pharisees tucking their tunics between the legs, speechless against the wisdom of God in their midst’s. What did he think when Jesus called the unbelieving Jews “children of the devil” in John 8, or when He instructed the crowds in Luke 14, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple.”? Is that the Christ Gandhi liked?
I never met Gandhi, never saw him speak, haven’t read much of his writings. But the human heart is the same whether you’re a corn-fed ‘Husker in the Bible belt, a skinny pot-smokin’ Brit, a militant Muslim in Malaysia, or a pantheistic, rag-picker in the slums of Mumbai – we’d rather see Christ through our own distorted eyeglasses than through the simple lenses of Scripture. If Christ claimed He was God, called those who didn’t believe He was God “children of the devil,” sarcastically pointed out the folly of human wisdom, and adeptly skewered His so-called followers for their lukewarm mediocrity, it’s understandable why one wouldn’t follow Christ. Yet His claims ironically are what make Him followable.
Do I believe Gandhi rejected Christianity because of the Christians? No. He rejected Christianity because of Christ.