Mahatma Gandhi is one of the most respected leaders of modern history. A Hindu, Ghandi nevertheless admired Jesus and often quoted from the Sermon on the Mount. Once when the missionary E. Stanley Jones met with Ghandi he asked him, "Mr. Ghandi, though you quote the words of Christ often, why is that you appear to so adamantly reject becoming his follower?" Ghandi 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." Apparently Ghandi's rejection of Christianity grew out of an incident that happened when he was a young man practising law in South Africa. He had become attracted to the Christian faith, had studied the Bible and the teachings of Jesus, and was seriously exploring becoming a Christian. And so he decided to attend a church service. As he came up the steps of the large church where he intended to go, a white South African elder of the church barred his way at the door. "Where do you think you're going, kaffir?" the man asked Ghandi in a belligerent tone of voice. Ghandi replied, "I'd like to attend worship here." The church elder snarled 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." From that moment, Ghandi said, he decided to adopt what good he found in Christianity, but would never again consider becoming a Christian if it meant being part of the church.
Over the years I have had many conversations with people who claim to be Christian "backsliders" or non-believers or atheists, and nearly every time I hear their personal histories I discover a story similar or in some way relatable to this one in their past. It seems to me that when damage is done to the horizontal in spiritual relationships, it always affects the vertical. I've never met anyone who just decided to be an atheist for no reason...the disconnect in every case seems to be more about people-experience than about God-expereince.
Do you know of any situations like the Ghandi story? Did something like that ever happen to you, and, if so, how did it affect you? How did you get past it?
Consider these quotes and this passage and tell me what you think.
"I am not sure exactly what Heaven will be like. But I don't know that when we die and if comes the time for God to judge us, He will not ask, "How many good things have you done in your life?" Rather He will ask, "How much love did you put into what you did?"
- Mother Teresa
"Like an unchecked cancer, hate corrodes the personality and eats away its vital unity. Hate destroys a man's sense of values and his objectivity. It causes him to describe the beautiful as ugly and the ugly as beautiful, and to confuse the true with the false and the false with the true. Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice. Justice at its best is love correcting everything that stands against love."
- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
"So this is what I need to leave with you - these are my last words to you - what I want, more than anything, for you to remember. I have given you many instructions and insights during our time together, but here is the new commandment, the new order, the thing that is superior to every other thing, in a word: LOVE ONE ANOTHER. In the way that I have loved you, so you must love one another. Do you understand? You see, this is the only way that people will know that you are My disciples. Your love for one another is the solitary thing that will validate My message in the long run - not the miracles, not the signs and wonders, not the teaching - but your unconditional love for each other. It is not optional." (John 13:34, 35 - JITN)