There is a famous quote attributed to Mahatma Gandhi in which he states to admire Jesus, but not followers. In one version, he speaking to E. Stanley Jones, author of “The Christ of the Indian Road”. In response to a question about bringing Christianity to India Mr. Gandhi states,
“I would suggest first of all that all of you Christians, missionaries and all begin to live more like Jesus Christ.”
I grew up going to Sunday school as a child. Our small Congregational Church here in Centerbrook only counted a few families as members. My great aunt Catherine played the piano. In Sunday school we mostly read the Gospels and bits of the New Testament. There was an emphasis on trying to be like Jesus – in fact it was the name of one of the songs we used to sing: “Lord I Want to Be Like Jesus”.
The Jesus I came to know as a child was a kind, loving, forgiving presence. He was someone who could see the very essence of a person’s heart through all their bullshit, all their wounds, all the “things” they had become in life. The message to me was that I must always love my neighbor, that I must always strive to let go of material things, let go of grudges, that I must never judge and that I must develop a compassion and understanding for those less fortunate than I – whether that meant the poor in “pocketbook”, the poor in spirit, or even those lacking the same knowledge I had of our potential to be so loving and kind as to say we were indeed, “like Jesus”.
It wasn’t until later in life I realized that Christianity seemed to mean something very different to some other people.
As I read through the entire Holy Bible myself, it seemed to me that Gandhi made quite a powerful point.
I was not taught to worship Paul – although his writings reveal much about the early Church. I was not taught to bring judgment against my fellow human beings. I was not taught it was ok to rationalize my political beliefs using the Bible. This is the point where formal Christianity and I parted ways.
What do I think now? I think Jesus overturning the money changer’s tables would pale in comparison to what he might have to say to a few folks using His name today…
I also think Jesus would be a fast friend to a few of us doubting Thomases…. Who simple question what to believe in the face of so much religious zealotry and insanity.
I think if the folks so wrapped up in telling the rest of the country what to do would spend more time trying to be like Jesus, we’d all be better off.