Ghandi was surely one of the greatest moral leaders of the modern times. He was once asked what he thought about Western Civilisation. His critique included an observation about our selfishness and materialism.
Ghandi’s life was a life of compassion which was built on self-sacrifice. If Jesus could tell a story about a Samaritan as an example of exemplary morality, then I feel quite comfortable telling a story about a compassionate Hindu.
The story is told that one day Ghandi was boarding a train when his shoe fell off his foot into the gap between the train and the platform. And so what did he do? He took off his other shoe and threw it down beside the first shoe. His fellow travellers were puzzled, and so Ghandi explained to them that a poor person who finds a single shoe is no better off – what’s really helpful is finding a pair.
Ghandi renamed the untouchables in India, calling them ‘Children of God.’ He honoured lepers, women, and the poor in a country where they were sorely oppressed. Through his moral leadership he won freedom for his nation, and today he is revered by a billion people. Surely, here is a person who should have been a Christian!
What many people don’t know is that Ghandi for a period very seriously considered becoming a Christian. He studied the gospels intensely, and it is reported that he even sold Christian Bibles for a time.
In this period, while he was intensely studying the gospel in South Africa, Ghandi heard about a small Christian church in his area, and he decided to attend the church service. But when he arrived, he was stopped at the door by the English elder on duty, who said to him,
“Where do you think you’re going, kaffir?” (Kaffir is a term of racial abuse for dark-skinned people in South Africa.)
Gandhi replied, “I’d like to attend worship here.” Then church elder said to 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.”
Many years later, the missionary Stanley Jones asked Ghandi why he had not become a Christian. Ghandi replied, “I like your Christ … I do not like your Christians. They are so unlike your Christ.”
It is a true curse upon this world and our society today that all too often Christians have thought that being a Christian is all about working at becoming more outwardly righteous, and more religious. The true change that God wants to see in us is that we should become agents of His mercy and grace. We are called to not only know the gospel, but to live the gospel.