God has given me the privilege of teaching in India over the past 13 years, and I love every aspect of it. While there, I often feel as if I am an Indian trapped in a white man’s body. Part of my annual preparation involves researching key figures in Indian history, so that I can understand better the shaping influences upon the national psyche. One person of immense significance is: Mohadas Karamchand Gandhi. So, with this introductory context, I invite you to read on.
A few years ago an article appeared in Christianity Today entitled, “Learning from Gandhi.” The subtitle to the article read: “Thirty-five years after his death, does Western Christianity have anything to learn from the Hindu who learned so much from Christ?” The reason this subtitle caught my attention is that I’m always a little curious about people who reject Christianity and its claims of exclusivity but openly acknowledge their admiration for Jesus Christ. It tells me that the individual is either ignorant or inconsistent. Gandhi was certainly not an ignorant man. Thus his praise for Jesus but repudiation of the Christian faith can only be traced to a manifest inconsistency in his reading of the New Testament documents. Like many, Gandhi no doubt read the gospels with a pair of mental scissors, cutting out all teachings of Jesus that were offensive and unacceptable to him.
Consider how Gandhi would have read the Sermon on the Mount. According to the article noted above, Gandhi would regularly conduct a prayer meeting each evening at 7pm, at which time he would often stand and read the Sermon on the Mount and then sit down. This makes for interesting speculation! What in the world must Gandhi have thought when he came to Matthew 7:12-14? I am sure he was quite ecstatic when he read verse 12, for the Golden Rule, as it has been called, is generally admired and quoted by all peoples of every religion. Indeed, the reputation of Jesus as a man of peace and love is to some degree based on this verse. But what about verses 13-14? As if in the same breath our Lord proceeded to declare that apart from Him there is no life or hope, and that a rejection of Him as the only path to eternal life necessarily entails walking that path which inevitably issues in eternal death! This is why I suggest (respectfully) that if Gandhi cannot be charged with ignorance he must have been incredibly, if not deceitfully, inconsistent.
Let me illustrate. Let’s suppose that Gandhi was invited to lecture before the world at which time he would briefly summarize the essence of his beliefs. In the course of his lecture he says: “My friends, I declare unto you that it is essential for you to treat one another with love and self-sacrifice, always seeking to do unto them what you in turn would like done unto yourselves.”
Pausing to allow time for the applause and shouts of “Amen, you tell ‘em Gandhi,” to subside, he then resumes: “Furthermore, let it be know that I, Mohandas K. Gandhi am the only way to salvation, and that if you do not believe in me, and in me alone, if you do not follow and worship me, and me alone, if you do not embrace the way of Hinduism and Hinduism alone, you will suffer eternal condemnation and punishment in hell.”
The absurdity of such claims on the part of any man, unless, of course, this man also happens to be God, is self-evident. Yet, notwithstanding the fact that this is precisely the claim of our Lord Jesus Christ, Gandhi and many others as well insist on “admiring” Jesus while rejecting Christianity.
My point is simply this: if you cannot accept and admire this Jesus who claimed to be the exclusive path to eternal life, you cannot with consistency accept and admire Him for teaching that we should do unto others as we would have them do unto us. What I propose is that the first thing we must embrace is that the person of Jesus Christ must be viewed in the light of the entirety of His teaching. We cannot play pick and choose with one whom we call “Lord”. The same Jesus who said, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” also said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes unto the Father but by Me.”
All or nothing.