Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi is better known for his fight against violence. He spent his entire life wrestling, with vision and vehemence, against violence. It is depressing to note that he was cut down by the same sword he violently tried to render blunt. He preached and practised peaceful means of gaining independence for his beloved motherland. He became the high priest of modern-day non-violence.
The Mahatma, as he was frequently and fondly referred to, is remembered as one of the most elegant pacifists the world has ever seen. The man who frequently quoted from the Sermon on the Mount was indeed larger than life. His legacy is beyond dispute.
One of the notable Missionaries of the 20th Century Eli Stanley Jones is said to have been a close comrade of the Mahatma.
It is reported that E. Stanley Jones once asked the Mahatma, “Mr Gandhi, though you quote the words of Christ often, why have you adamantly rejected becoming his follower?”
Gandhi replied, “Oh, I don’t reject your Christ. I love your Christ. It’s just that so many of you Christians are so unlike your Christ.” The friendship between the two was so great that E. Stanley Jones wrote a biography of Gandhi.
Martin Luther King stated that this biography persuaded him to adopt strict non-violent means in the American civil rights drive.
The Mahatma’s rejection of Christianity was as a result of an incident that took place in his formative years as a lawyer in Apartheid South Africa. He had formed an intense interest in Christian Worldview. He read the Bible and the exclusive teachings of Jesus. He was now seriously considering becoming a Christian and purposed to attend a church service in one of the large nearby churches.
As he went up the steps of the church, a white South African church elder stopped him at the door and asked in pugnacious tone, “Where do you think you’re going, kaffir?” Gandhi responded, “I’d like to attend worship here.”
The church elder roared at him, “There’s no room for Kaffirs in this church. Get out of here or I’ll have my assistants throw you down the steps.”
(Kaffir was a racial term denoting the African person.).
This uncivilized occurrence affected Mahatma’s attitude towards Christianity for the rest of his life. He decided to espouse what good he found in Christianity, but would never again consider becoming a Christian if it meant being part of the church. How many times have we behaved similarly?
What the Scripture says
There are two noteworthy portions in the Gospels where we encounter Jesus’ disciples trying to stop people from reaching Him.
The first one is in the Gospel of Mark 9:38,
“Teacher,” said John, “we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.” (NIV).
In this portion, we see disciples who are rather selfish with Jesus. They do not want to share Jesus. They are uneasy because some other guy, who has not travailed with them, is benefiting from Jesus. He has not planted with them, but he is enjoying the harvest with them.
Driving out demons was cool, Isn’t it? But the disciples did not give this fact a sombre consideration; instead, they were obsessed with the fact that the man was not physically part of them. By using the name of Jesus, the man inevitably became part of them spiritually.
The disciples thinking were against the object of Jesus’ coming.
The second portion is found in Luke 18:15,
“People were also bringing babies to Jesus for him to place his hands on them. When the disciples saw this, they rebuked them.” (NIV).
This one helps us understand the attitude of disciples towards children. We may inductively conclude that children, in disciples’ philosophy, are unimportant members of the community. As such, they were not worthy of a treat from Jesus. Jesus was for adults only, so they thought. Jesus had to correct their wrong perceptions there and then.
Even in this day and age, among ourselves, we still find biases and prejudices that impede people from accessing God. We have the propensity to ‘own’ Jesus and disown His people. This kind of comportment work against the central theme of Jesus’ message which is LOVE. It flies in the face of Good News message.
I have been asking myself, how many times have I stopped other people from accessing Christ?
Self-righteousness, selective application of mercy, bitterness and shallow understanding of the Gospel are some of the props of this unorthodox predispositions.
In conclusion, let us mirror on the words of Saint Augustine, Bishop of Hippo,
“never judge a philosophy by its abuse.”
If the Mahatma had reflected on these words of St. Augustine, perhaps things would have fared on otherwise.