I feel like a “with all due respect” should be added there. After all, he did some fantastic stuff and changed his part of the world. But I find one famous quote of his particularly erroneous. Strangely enough, he proved it wrong throughout his life.
“I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”
Sadly, this quote is often used by many in modern society as a means of rejecting Christianity. I’ve even heard this sentiment expressed by many within Christianity to describe their own objections to other Christians.
Given the scope of this article, I’ll have to set aside the obvious discussion of schisms and contention that this issue brings up. I’ll also have to set aside how using this reference as an objection suggests that a person chooses their beliefs based on popular appeal over validity.
What I want to discuss here is how this quote reflects a deep misunderstanding of what it means to be a Christian. The fact of the matter is that those who like Christ, but not Christians, have missed Jesus’ point. The root of Christianity is essentially that God has said our imperfections are wiped clean, and He chooses to remember the good about us. As Christians, we’re free from thinking we have to be perfect.
Of course, that isn’t a license to do whatever we please. Christians still strive to be like Christ, and that’s good. But the very root of our faith says that we won’t achieve it. This is the reason we need Jesus. It frees us from being slaves to the pursuit of perfection, while encouraging us to continuously seek Him and try to do better. We place our past mistakes behind us and try again with a new day.
Of course, in all fairness, I usually see this idea directed toward self-righteous Christians–those who think they’re doing better than others, but are clearly falling short. And that is a problem that shouldn’t be taken lightly. But even in this case, Gandhi’s quote still missed the point. He was holding Christians to a higher standard and criticizing them for falling short.
Quite simply, thinking that our own goodness is sufficient is just one more failure. It can be worse than others in many ways because it prevents us from seeing our faults, but it still boils down to just one more failure. To criticize someone for not understanding their nature is not understanding our own nature. It doesn’t help anything if we are judgmental and intolerant when we blame others for being judgmental and intolerant.
And this played itself out in Gandhi’s life. He’s well known for being racist against black people. He’s well known for not living up to the standard that he set for others. But in reflecting on his life, the modern world generally chooses to ignore the bad and remember him for the good he accomplished. Let’s keep doing that and extend the same grace to all.