Friday, May 03, 2013

[four key suggestions from Gandhi]

E. Stanley Jones, a missionary to India, tells of this conversation he had with Gandhi. While it is in the context of reaching out to the Indian people, it is equally applicable to reaching out to our friends, neighbours and colleagues here at home.

In conversation with [Mahatma Gandhi] one day I said, “Mahatma Gandhi, I am very anxious to see Christianity naturalized in India, so that it shall be no longer a foreign thing identified with a foreign people and a foreign government, but a part of the national life of India and contributing its power to India’s uplift and redemption. What would you suggest that we do make that possible?”

He very gravely and thoughtfully replied: “I would suggest, first, that all of you Christians, missionaries and all, must begin to live more like Jesus Christ.

He needn’t have said anything more—that was quite enough. I knew that looking through his eyes were the three hundred millions of India, and speaking through his voice were the dumb millions of the East saying to me, a representative of the West, and through me to that very West itself, “If you will come to us in the spirit of your Master, we cannot resist you.” Never was there a greater challenge to the West than that, and never was it more sincerely given.

“Second,” he said, “I would suggest that you must practice your religion without adulterating or toning it down.”

This is just as remarkable as the first. The greatest living non-Christian asks us not to adulterate it or tone it down, not to meet them with an emasculated gospel, but to take it in its rugged simplicity and high demand. But what are we doing? As someone has suggested, we are inoculating the world with a mild form of Christianity, so that it is now practically immune against the real thing. Vast areas of the Christian world are inoculated with a mild form of Christianity, and the real thing seems strange and impossible. As one puts it, “Our churches are made up of people who would be equally shocked to see Christianity doubted or put into practice.” I am not anxious to see India take a mild form – I want her to take the real thing.

“Third, I would suggest that you must put your emphasis upon love, for love is the center and soul of Christianity.”

He did not mean love as a sentiment, but love as a working force, the one real power in a moral universe, and he wanted it applied between individuals and groups and races and nations, the one cement and salvation of the world. With a soul so sensitive to the meaning of love no wonder there were tears in his eyes when I read him at that point the thirteenth chapter of First Corinthians.

“Fourth, I would suggest that you 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.”

Quite right. We should be grateful for any truth found anywhere, knowing that it is a finger post that points to Jesus, who is the Truth.

Excerpt from CHRIST of the Indian Road by E. Stanley Jones (NY: The Abingdon Press, 1925), pp 118-120.

How would our lives and our relationships be different if we followed these four suggestions?


  1. I was just thinking the other day, that I sometimes hesitate to say I'm a Christian b/c of what people associate with Christianity. I've been reading McLaren's "The Secret Message of Jesus" and wondering, if Jesus came today, what would we call his followers to distinguish them from the watered-down Christians today. These challenges definitely are for us today too.

    1. Yes, I know what you mean about being hesitant to say that I'm a Christian -- at least using that word. Saying "follower of Jesus" is generally a better phrase for me. In Jesus' day, I wonder if the Jewish people in general were more religious? And if there was the difference of following Jesus versus not following him, it might have been easier. What I mean is, was the difference one of watered down versus committed, or religious versus radical? Perhaps not really much of a distinction considering we are called to be radical and counter cultural....