(1) Why did Gandhi say, ‘If it weren’t for Christians, I’d be a Christian?’
(a) The Rev. Pattison tells the following story: One Sunday morning Gandhi decided that he would visit one of the Christian churches in Calcutta. Upon seeking entrance to the church sanctuary, he was stopped at the door by the ushers.
(b) He was told he was not welcome, nor would he be permitted to attend this particular church as it was for high-caste Indians and whites only. He was neither high caste, nor was he white. Because of the rejection, the Mahatma turned his back on Christianity.
(2) With this act, Gandhi rejected the Christian faith, never again to consider the claims of Christ. He was turned off by the sin of segregation that was practiced by the church. It was due to this experience that Gandhi later declared, “I’d be a Christian if it were not for the Christians.’”
(3) Some of the Christian songs moved Gandhiji deeply. His choice of these hymns, as Vincent Sheen writes, sheds much light upon his own religious personality. The hymn, “When I survey the wondrous Cross,” touched his inner most feelings. He always sang this at the end of his long fasts.
(4) Composed by Isaac Watts the hymn goes like this: “When I survey the wondrous Cross on which the Prince of Glory died, my richest gain I count but loss, and pour contempt on all my pride, were the whole realm of nature mine, that were an offering far too small. Love so amazing, so divine, demands my life, my soul, my all.”
(5) To Gandhiji, God is truth and light. He is love, ethics, morality, fearlessness, and the source of light and life. And yet, He is above and beyond all these.
(6) Gandhiji’s says: “I am in the world feeling my way to light amid encircling gloom. I often err and miscalculate. My trust is solely in God.” And the song “Lead kindly Light,” composed by Cardinal Newman, always gave him strength.
(7) It goes: “Lead, kindly Light, amid the encircling gloom, Lead Thou me on; The night is dark, and I am far from home; Lead Thou me on’ O’er moor and fen, o’er crag and torrent, till The night is gone; And with the morn those angel faces smile, Which I have loved long since, and lost awhile.”
(8) “Rock of Ages cleft for me,” written by A.M. Toplady was Gandhiji’s another favourite hymn: “Rock of Ages, cleft for me, Let me hide myself in Thee; Let the water and the blood, From Thy riven side which flow’d, Be of sin the double cure, Cleanse me from its guilt and power… While I draw this fleeting breath, When my eyelids close in death, When I soar through tracts unknown, See Thee on Thy Judgment Throne; Rock of Ages, cleft for me, Let me hide myself in Thee.”
(9) Gandhiji said: “Prayer has saved my life, without it I should have been a lunatic long ago. I feel that as food is indispensable for the body so was prayer indispensable for the soul. I find solace in life and in prayer. With the Grace of God everything can be achieved. When His Grace filled one’s being nothing was impossible for one to achieve. Prayer is nothing else but an intense longing of the heart. You may express yourself through the lips; you may express yourself in the private closet or in the public; but to be genuine, the expression must come from the deepest recesses of the heart… It is my constant prayer that I may never have a feeling of anger against my traducers, that even if I fall a victim to an assassin’s bullet, I may deliver my soul with the remembrance of God upon my lips.”
(10) Gandhiji was also much devoted to the Sermon on the Mount and by these teachings of the Bible he became an apostle of non-violence.
(11) Mahatma Gandhi’s Original Letter About Christianity, a one-of-its-kind letter written by Mahatma Gandhi on Christianity and is dated 6 April, 1926 has been sold for USD 50,000 to an undisclosed buyer. In the letter, Gandhi has described Jesus Christ as ‘one of the great teachers of mankind’.
(12) Gandhi’s belief in Jesus as a teacher of mankind showed that he praised Jesus whom he believed was the way of peace and non-violence.
(13) A Christian friend who was very close requested Gandhi to read the Bible. The friend not only requested, he made Gandhi promise he would read the Bible. Gandhiji was honest that he had difficulties in understanding the Old Testament, but admitted that The Sermon on the Mount and the symbol of the Cross, “went straight to my heart.”
(14) After that, Mahatma Gandhi in his radical solutions to national and international problems, often quoted verses from the teachings of Christ. It appeared like the Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 5 (the Beatitudes) was constantly on his mind and that he constructed all his life plans, political reforms, and discussions out of it.
(15) In the room where he lived, a beautiful painting of Christ was placed straight on the wall over his desk. There were a few other pictures – of Justice Ranade, Annie Besant, and William Hunter on other walls. But right in the center of his workplace was the face of Christ.
(16) In his book, “Gandhi, On Christianity”, he was more elaborate. “There was a time I sincerely considered Christianity as my religion. However, although I admire much in Christianity, I am unable to identify myself with orthodox Christianity…
(17) Author E. Stanley Jones, an author and close friend of Gandhiji, said to him, “Mr. Gandhi, I am very anxious to see Christianity naturalized in India so it shall no longer be a foreign thing identified with the foreign people and a foreign government, but become a part of the national life of India, contributing its power to India’s uplift and redemption.” The evangelist straightforwardly asked the Mahatma what Christians should do to make that possible.
(18) Gandhiji paused a bit, then looked him in the eye, and gave him these suggestions:
- “I would suggest, first and foremost, that Christians should begin to live more like Jesus Christ. If you come to us in the Spirit of your Master, we will not be able to resist you.
- “Second, I would suggest that you must practice your religion without adulterating it or toning it down.
- “Third, I would suggest that you must put your emphasis upon love, for love is the center and soul of Christianity (He felt that when non-Christians looked at Christians, they did not see love, but found themselves looking at pride, superiority, and condemnation).
- “Finally, study the non-Christian religions and culture more sympathetically in order to find the good that is in them, so that you might have a more sympathetic approach to the people.”
Come 2nd of October, each year, we in India celebrate “Gandhi Jayanthi” (anniversary of his birth). The United Nations too, declares it a holiday, and celebrates it as the International Day of Non-violence.
As Christians, this year, let us henceforth, consider 2nd October, a day of remembrance, on which we come before the Father of the Universe and of all Creation, and thank God for this Man whom the world reveres as a “father”.
Let us repent for poor witness, for often living out our faith in an offensive manner repelling potential souls hungry and thirsty for the Truth … instead of drawing them to Christ.
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