He was a great worldwide leader of the peaceful civil disobedience movement. American Civil Rights activists like Martin Luther King Jr. saw him as a blazing forerunner to their cause for equality.
Gandhi spoke and lived out a wealth of worthy truth; I would never suggest we should ignore all of it. God is the God of truth, so we should be confident enough to claim it wherever it springs from. For clarification: my main issue is the ad nauseam use of one particular Gandhi quote, provided almost exclusively by Christians as a rebuke to other Christians. It goes:
I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.
So take a few deep breaths. This isn’t a moratorium on all things Gandhi (step away from the unfollow button). Here are 3 reasons I personally wouldn’t exhort fellow Christians with this particular quote:
Gandhi May Not Have Liked Himself As A Christian
Sure, British Imperialism put a deservedly nasty taste in Gandhi’s mouth. And he fought it beautifully with counter intuitive peaceful resistance.
But Gandhi was a man with a fallen nature too. He abandoned his wife to gallivant with a German bodybuilder. He conducted some sexually strange “spiritual marriage” rituals with young girls.
Maybe worse: Gandhi had blatantly racist views fueled by his staunch belief in the Hindu caste system. Black South Africans had the same struggle with Britain the Indians did, yet Gandhi seemed to sympathize with the white establishment saying of them,
Black political leaders like Martin Luther King Jr may have loved to have coffee with their social justice idol, but that would likely never happen given Gandhi’s prejudicial presuppositions.
The Reciprocal Truth Would Be Rejected
Imagine a Christian leader standing up before the media masses and saying to the modern world,
“I like your Gandhi, but I do not like your Hindus”
“I like your Muhammad, but I do not like your Muslims.”
Doesn’t sound as cute and enlightened, eh?
Would that pastor be lauded as a high emissary of other worldly wisdom? No. He’d likely be railroaded out of town as some small-minded bigot. To be so dismissive of such a large diverse group is the opposite of careful nuance. But Gandhi gets a pass where he shouldn’t.
Jesus Already Covered This Perfectly
The Jesus that Gandhi speaks of like a flavor preference covered this one a long time ago. There are many penetrating biblical labels for “Christians” who are absolutely nothing like Christ:
“Lost” “Blind” “Dead” and “Goats” just to name a few.
Jesus the Prophet called this way before Gandhi the pacifist did. He knew many would claim Him who had nothing to do with Him.
Yes, there is some pertinent truth in the Gandhi quote. Because certainly, blood-bought born-again Christians aren’t perfect. But to suggest the geo political arm of British Imperialism or Southern White racism are synonymous with being “in Christ” is to ignore the nature of the King and Kingdom altogether. Instead of quoting a fallen man to make our point, let’s quote the perfect risen King of all men (Mat 7:21-23)
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven….”
But what of sincerely sputtering and stumbling Christians who are still a dim reflection of the Son? Jesus the Savior beautifully deals with this conundrum. He does it with a power greater than a million British empires or Pacifist movements. Jesus does it with
Grace for the struggling Christian who doesn’t measure up to Gandhi’s Jesus ideal. Grace for the “Invisible” children of Calcutta who Gandhi would never dare touch because of religious legalism. Grace for Mr. Gandhi if he simply wanted it.
Grace for me.
Grace for you.
Grace that fills the daunting gap between who we are and who we will finally be. Grace covered and saturated and splattered with the blood of a precious Son, not a philosopher. Above anything else, let that be the story we’re known for sharing to our fellow brothers and sisters who stumble yet yearn to be like their adopted heavenly Father.