“I like your Christ, but not your Christianity.” In these words of Mahatma Gandhi, Dr. J.H. Holmes summed up the Indian leader’s view of Christianity in a recent interview with a CRIMSON (the Harvard Crimson from 1927) reporter. Dr. Holmes, professor of Philosophy at Swarthmore College and a member of the Society of Friends, has just completed a tour around the world, during which he spent some time in India. He had several opportunities of conversing with Gandhi.
Even in 1927, Gandhi seemed to love the work of Jesus, but did not like what Christianity had become. For our churches in June, we will be working through the book of 1 John and attempting to understand what it was that set apart these early followers of Jesus and how the church exploded on the scene. What set them apart from all the other deities of the time? It is much deeper than this, but you could sum it up as authentic relationships.
In 1 John 1:3, John tells the world what sets them apart, “We proclaim to you what we ourselves have actually seen and heard so that you may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.” The early church was built on relationships. Those who had been with Jesus when He was alive, and then went on to testify to Him being alive after His death, were a welcoming community. They lived the words of the one they followed, Jesus, when He said, ‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22: 37-40)
I believe that it may be time for those who are truly following Christ to no longer consider themselves Christians. This descriptive noun has taken on a different meaning in our current culture. It is a name that describes an abusive, judgmental, and even hateful group of people. If we are claiming to follow Christ, then maybe we should simply call ourselves followers of Christ.
If we are going to prove it, to the next generation, then our lives will have to look much different than our current stereotypical Christian definition. We must be willing to put in the work. We must know God, by exploring and knowing Him through the scriptures. We must be willing to walk with God, bringing the risen Christ with us daily. We must also strive to be the example of Jesus’ sacrificial love for all people. Maybe, just maybe, we can change the world by allowing Jesus to be the example by which we live. Don’t believe me? Prove it!
The writer is the pastor for Maplewood and DeGraff United Methodist Churches.