Getting it wrong: Gandhi, “I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so not like your Christ.”
Getting it right: Jesus said, “Love your neighbor.” (Matthew 22:37)
Mahatma Gandhi was a Hindu man who led a simple virtuous life. He is considered a national hero in India. Gandhi was a highly respected global figure recognized as the person most responsible for leading India to independence from Britain through the use of non-violent civil disobedience. Gandhi is also known for his efforts in fighting against discrimination, poverty, and injustice while standing for women’s rights and religious harmony. Gandhi survived five assassination attempts, but in January of 1948 a Hindi nationalist shot him in the chest three times at point blank range and took his life.
Gandhi lived in South Africa for 20 years as a practicing attorney. At the time, the Dutch Reformed Church and other avowed white supremacist Christians claimed they had biblical authority to practice segregation and ruled South Africa with fear and oppression. Any protest against segregation was met with imprisonment, torture, and even death.
Gandhi was thrown off trains, beaten for not giving up his seat to a white European, denied lodging in hotels, and imprisoned several times. He read the Bible and knew about the life of Jesus. While in South Africa, he tried to attend a Christian church but was met at the door and because he was not white, was turned away, and as a result was deterred. It’s not hard to understand why Gandhi liked Jesus but didn’t like Christians.
I wonder what Jesus would say to Gandhi and what Jesus would say to the Christians who turned Gandhi away. Today, there are Christian leaders who say we should ignore Gandhi’s quote as unfair because he was Hindu, did not really know Jesus, and failed to understand who God is and God’s role in humanity. I cannot judge or dismiss Gandhi so easily considering the abuses he saw and suffered at the hands of Christians.
Maybe if Gandhi had been welcomed at that Christian church and treated with respect, things would have turned out differently. When Christians act like Jesus and are loving and forgiving, people are drawn to—rather than turned off by—our faith, and then others come to know God through Jesus.