- Pastor Tom Cunningham
AN HISTORICAL PET PEEVE
The following quote has been so oft repeated and with such great cynicism that it began to make me nauseas. So many opportunists that are looking for an excuse for their own immorality will jump at anything that makes Christians of all maturity levels look like hypocritical buffoons.
“I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi
Although this quote is largely attributed to Mahatma Ghandi, there is no authoritative source for Gandhi saying this at all. The actual quote is attributed to Bara Dada as this: “Jesus is ideal and wonderful, but you Christians — you are not like him.” [Source – Jones, E. Stanley. The Christ of the Indian Road, New York: The Abingdon Press, 1925. (Page 114)]
Yet, even as recent as 2005 in The Times [London], the quote is once again (with great personal irritation) attributed to Ghandi. And this quote draws such repeated ambiguous responses by ignorant people with no understanding of either Ghandi or Christianity that it simply shall not go unchallenged this time. One response to this Ghandi non-quote in Yahoo Answers, when asked what the reader thought it meant responds with,
“He meant that Christians are not living a very Christ like life, and sadly, it’s getting worse, now that there are so @%!# (non-offensive character substitution all mine) many fundamentalist bigots around. Ghandi was more Christian than any ‘righteous’ Pentecostal or southern Baptist or any other fundamentalist could ever dream of being.”
Not only is this response a complete factual inaccuracy on so many levels, it is vague and overreaching while it lobs accusations at all Christians “around” — calling us “fundamentalist bigots”. What does that really mean? Now, fundamentalism is a strict adherence to any set of basic ideas or principles and a bigot is a person who is intolerant of any ideas other than his or her own — so now, does that really sound like the Christian? Or more like the responder? It only really succeeds in showing the responders dislike for Christianity in general and his own dishonest hypocrisy as it serves to keenly prove my point regarding my “ambiguous responses by ignorant people” rant as stated earlier in this post.
If we are to allow history and his own writings to judge him today, then Mahatma Ghandi could not have agreed with, or liked Christ very much at all as this quote erroneously supposes. In fact, for all of his statements about being a warrior for peace, his aberrant and sometimes cruel behavior drove one of his own sons to alcohol and some of his staff to quit in disgust. He was described by those who interacted with his life and career as difficult, arrogant, egocentric, idiosyncratic, and morally ambiguous with homosexual proclivity and sexually aberrant behavior. He slept naked with his grand-nieces for crying out loud. He was politically devious and quite possibly a racist, calling the South African blacks in print the wildly derogatory term, “kaffirs.” And to sum it all up (catching my breath while pausing for this final dramatic slam dunk), the majority of causes or projects as some called them that he gave his life and “passion” to, were abject failures. One man said, “Because he was assassinated, we now ignore the frailties and the follies of the Mahatma.”
So Mahatma Ghandi had Jesus Christ all wrong, Christians all wrong, failed to find truth as evidenced by a lifetime of his own character failings and a flesh he could not get control of as he taught others to do. Maybe he’s the guy that coined the phrase, “Do as I say, not as I do…”
All of this being said, Christians do not get a pass! Yes, we are called to walk in His Spirit, imitate His life and teachings and become disciplined learners of the ways of God. So, I want to point out a few things that I know to be true.
1) We are called to be Christ-like, yes and holiness is our God-given goal. 2) Christianity is a journey “working out our own salvation with fear and trembling…” 3) Christians are not, nor ever were expected to be, perfect. We are in fact, however, forgiven.
Therein lies the amazing truth of scripture: the blood of Jesus Christ, imputed to our lives in salvation makes us at once “positionally holy”. Walking in His holiness and justified by His sacrifice on the cross, we are given a new nature as the “old one has passed away.” Believe me when I say, we needed a new nature, not a change, not a new attitude, but a completely fresh start.
Christianity isn’t a crutch, it is a stretcher. We get carried in by his mercy and we get to walk on through life in His grace; forgiven, justified and whole. We become holy as we make decisions, set new priorities and in time begin to become like Him! In our newly “born-again” nature we begin developing a ‘culture’ that separates us from the old ways of the flesh and allows our lives to grow and mature in Christ.
The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 13:12, “For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then [we will see] face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.”
This process of holiness, of “Christ-likeness” is only complete at the end of this journey when we stand before God in all of His glory. We put off this corruptible flesh and dawn an incorruptible glorified body as the supernatural transformation from sinner to saint reaches its apex. Then and only then will we really become like Him and at that moment He will say to us…
“Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your Lord.” (Matthew 25:21)