…I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.
Oh, Gandhi… Really, you had to convict me like that?
The sad part? The maddening and frustrating part? Its true. So very true. Christians (not all, mind you, but so many) are very unlike Christ. We live in a secular world that pulls us in, changes us, then spits us out. And we change. We are different. The Christian I was when I was younger, even through high school, is not the Christian I became through college and into today. The innocent, even rather naïve faith we possess takes a few hits when we enter the real world. It encounters questions, doubts, corruption, inconsistencies, injustice. It loses its shine and becomes a bit rough around the edges. Some of us may give it up all together. We toss it aside, satisfied with fully embracing the secular world that shows us the ridiculousness of the faith we held. Others cling to it blindly, ignoring the questions and skepticism, willing to go through life with rose-tinted glasses handed out on Sunday mornings. And then there are those of us who just stand there, straddling both worlds, belonging to neither. We don’t know how to fully live a sacred life in a secular world. We can’t be two things at once. We can’t reconcile.
Jesus’ life, or at least what we know of it, shows that we can live in this world, embracing our belief and faith in God. We can be a Christian in a secular world. It isn’t easy (Jesus and many of His followers died for it), but He warned about persecution. Its part of the package. It’s the way things are. But if we choose to muddle through, we will be blessed for it.
How did Jesus live in the secular world? How did He find his place, make Himself fit? He loved. He loved deeply and truly. There was no one He wouldn’t share His love and message with. Children, elderly, Pharisees, tax collectors, prostitutes, fishermen, Jews, Gentiles, soldiers, friends, enemies. He embraced everyone. He healed anyone who would ask. He brought peace to those who needed it. His Sermon on the Mount was for anyone who wanted to listen, anyone who cared enough to sit there (probably for hours). He denied no one. Jesus is love, and He showed it everyday of His life on earth.
So when Gandhi says that he likes my Christ, I get it. Christ was a pretty likeable person (unless you were a Pharisee or Roman, but that shows how politics ruins everything). He was encouraging and nonviolent. He gave hope to the poor and tough love to the rich. He told stories. He was approachable. He spread a message of life rather than condemnation to those He encountered. He gave them an example of the life we should lead. And He did it with a loving heart.
Christians are supposed to live their lives according to the example that Christ gave. We should live as He did, to the best of our abilities, understanding that we will never be perfect, because we sin. But we are to do the best we can, and with God’s help we can come close. Christians should be encouraging, loving, hopeful, tolerant, approachable, inclusive. We can be these things with the help of Christ who taught us how. This is why the accusation from Gandhi that Christians are so unlike Christ cuts so deep. It shouldn’t be the case. Christians are followers of Christ. At the heart of Christianity, Christians do as Christ did. It seems so simple. But we don’t live it out. We say the right words, attend the right church, give our ten percent, but we miss so much.
Jesus only gave two commandments when He was on earth. First, love the Lord our God with everything that we are. Second, love our neighbor as ourselves. He didn’t command us to go to church, to tithe, to evangelize, to pray, to shun nonbelievers. He commands us to love. We are to love God, love our neighbor, and love ourselves. How different would our religion, our history look if that commandment was the first thing we thought of, the only thing that mattered? How would the world look at Christians if we were a people who loved first and foremost? How would we live in the world if love was our motto, our priority?
In John 13:35, Jesus says, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” People will know we follow Christ by the love we show to those around us, by the love we show to each other. Gandhi should have been able to see that Christians are like the Christ of the Bible, the Christ of love. But because we don’t live out that love, he couldn’t see it. He didn’t like Christians. And I’ll admit that on most days, I’m not a fan myself.
We were created with the ability to love. We were created in the image of a God who loves unconditionally. We can love this way as well. Jesus came to the earth to save us. This much is true. But I believe that He came to earth to show us how to love each other. Its easy for us to forget how, when we are focused on fitting into a world that doesn’t mesh with the faith we live. But Jesus shows us that with love, we can live in this world. Love is the most important thing. Christians should be defined by the love they show to those around them, not by the verses they memorize, the missions trips they take, the number of times they pray and go to church in a week. We are a religion born of love. Its time that we remembered it.