Memories of a life…


Today marks the 59th anniversary of the death of a great pioneer of non-violence: Mohandas K. Gandhi. And I admire him for several reasons:

1) He had the courage to stand and lay his life on the line for something he believed in. No matter what that might be in someone’s life (or how flawed what they believe in might be), investing the whole of one’s life in something is admirable in principle.

2) He recognized the use of weaponry to achieve political purposes may win a battle (or series of battles), but in choosing to extinguish other human life to protect one’s own, we have already lost the war.

3) This may be the most important to me, because like MLK in America, we have reduced Gandhi to a sugary-sweet nice guy and neglected to pay attention to the fact that both of these men endured great adversity in living for what they stood for. They didn’t just pop up and say a little something, only to shrink away or shut up when others disagreed with them. They forcefully shoved the injustice of their present situation in the faces of their societies, and simply. would. not. let. up. in their pursuit of justice. And they both paid the ultimate price for their actions through assassination. Now, I believe MLK’s definition of justice was much more far-reaching and comprehensive than Gandhi’s, which leads me to my fourth thing I admire about Gandhi.

4) This one may also be the most important to me, because I believe the vision of life given by Jesus to his followers is so comprehensive, so life-altering, so demanding in its scope that it is the highest ethical standard this world has ever seen. And the thing that much of Christianity had become in Gandhi’s day (and still is today) was disgusting to him. He famously said,

“It is a first class human tragedy that people of the earth who claim to believe in the message of Jesus, whom they describe as the Prince of Peace, show little of that belief in actual practice.”

and

“Do not flatter yourselves with the belief that a mere recital of that celebrated verse in St. John makes a man a Christian.”

Even though Gandhi is ultimately accountable for his lifestyle and who or what belief system he submitted himself to, I think his point stands as a necessary reminder. It should be appalling to Christians that one who is not a follower of Jesus could live in such a heroic fashion while we often claim to “believe” and turn around and jump with both feet into the systems of capitalism, materialism, self-preservation, and nationalism as if they were the best definition of reality offered to us…neglecting to see those the systems leave wounded and broken in their wake.

I agree with Gandhi. We’re a pretty gutless bunch, that if you scratched a little below our surface platitudes, smiles, and fun little quotes of Scripture verses; you wouldn’t find much. And I include myself in that reality too.

I’m starting to think that the life we were called to as Christians demands heroism every single day of the week in ways that our secular friends (with the exception of the Gandhis of the world) couldn’t sniff at. And if we settle for less than this full development of our character and being in the image of Christ, we are failing the world and spitting in the face of God.

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