Gandhi’s Advice to Missionaries (revised)

Over winter break I found an amazing quote made by Gandhi in a really old missions book. I think the book is heavier than every book in my library combined. Its just a bunch of old missions journals from one year and it is at least 1000 pages. The book was owned by my pastor (Rev. Butch Vernon) at Thoroughbred Community Church in Nicholasville/Wilmore, KY. I took an interest in it because of it’s shear weight, significantly aged pages, and of course it’s title, “The Missionary Review of the World.” Epic.

“At a gathering of Indian Christians and British missionaries which was held before his imprisonment, Gandhi was asked how Christians could make Christianity a real force in the national life of India. He replied, ‘I would suggest four things. First, that all your missionaries and Indian Christians should begin to live as Jesus Christ did. Second, you should all practice your religion without adulterating it or toning it down. In the third place, I would suggest that you should emphasize the love side of Christianity more, for love is central in your religion. Another suggestion I would make is that you should study non-Christian religions more sympathetically in order to find the truth that is in them, and then a more sympathetic approach to the people will be possible.” (p 753 The Missionary Review of the World, September 1922)

I had always heard that Gandhi had some good things to say, but he said something that magnifies the Christian religion, that’s amazing! There is a quote I’ve always heard that hurts me deeply; it is an answer to the question why Gandhi was not a Christian paraphrased: I love your Jesus, but I hate your Christians (sic). Actual quote: “I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” Harsh. So Gandhi lifted up Jesus and Christianity as a religion, but would not become a Christian himself because of how he perceived that Christians lived. His first three suggestions to missionaries were really indicting. They say exactly how I feel that Christians should live: in imitation of Christ, with zeal for the Gospel of God, and with love as a major point of Christian life.

I mentioned this to a friend the morning after I found the quote. I told him, “I totally agree with everything Gandhi is saying in the first three suggestions… but I have trouble with the fourth one.”

His question was, “Should we?” As if to say: Does the fourth suggestion fit? Is it something Christians should do? Should we study other world religions to find the “truth” that is in them? Or should we struggle with the fourth suggestion?

My answer was basically this:
If Gandhi meant that we should see that other religions have truth claims that are similar to or identical to ours, then he’s right. People are more sympathetic with common ground, and it is okay to acknowledge that God has given general revelation about his character to everyone. Paul says in Romans 1 that this is why the nations are “without excuse,” because knowing God they did not honor Him or give thanks to Him for who He is. They see parts of Him, but they choose to serve created things rather than the Creator.

If Gandhi meant that we haven’t found all Truth and must search in other religions to find things that we missed, then I disagree. In Christ we have all things needed for Godliness. “May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.” 2 Peter 1:2-4

Christians need to look no further for spiritual fulfillment past what the Word of God offers us. Any teaching within the scope of Scripture is acceptable, but if we are trying to supplement our faith with other religions then we have missed the point. Pastor Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church in Seattle puts it simply,”Jesus plus anything ruins everything.” Pastor Driscoll addresses spiritualism in a recent sermon called “Receive Power” to the Mars Hill congregation in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The sermon speaks of the activity of the Holy Spirit in Jesus’ life, and how Christ in the flesh depended on God to empower Him by that Spirit. Committed followers of Jesus have this same Spirit indwelling us, and He will guide us into all truth. (John 16:13) Praise God!

See another post about the shorter Gandhi quote:


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