Saturday, November 02, 2013

"Gandhi Is My Favorite Christian Hero" by Ben Cook

My friend Ben shared this a couple of years ago and since I am posting old articles here as new in my "Gospel-menical Church" series, I figure not everyone has read it since he posted it in 2010. Plus he references one of my articles which makes him and his article doubly awesome!

"Be the change you want to see in the world." -- Mahatma Gandhi
Go ahead and peruse your Facebook profile information page. Skip across to your friends... Eventually, you're gonna probably find someone who has this exact quote listed as a "favorite quote." It's so common, in fact, that several Christians will choose Gandhi's quote over any quote from Christ himself.

That's noteworthy. Even if it's just anecdotal; it's noteworthy. And poignant.

My good friend, Mike Lewis wrote an excellent article which provokes us to consider whether Gandhi would have even accepted the teachings of Christ at all - instead of the emasculated, play-nice-in-the-sandbox, "Jesus" we experience in popular culture. While that is an interesting question altogether, I am perhaps frustrated for another reason.

The emergent church movement is a wonderful, God-sent re-focus for our faith. I am thankful for the stirring they provide for us all. But my hesitation is this: the epistemology of this movement is ambiguous at best. Here's what I mean: I know what is true because it comes from the lips of Christ. Knowledge and truth really come from Christ - whatever He declares as truth is truth. In the above quote, Gandhi expresses truth very eloquently. But it's not truth because Gandhi said it. It's truth because it is declared as truth by the author of truth.

Here comes my question: now that Christians are more attentive to social justice issues... are we doing it because we are attentive to the Spirit of Truth, or are we doing it because it is a cultural value? As postmodern values take deeper root in our culture we see a steady erosion of any standard of objective truth. Except one: social justice/human dignity. The single objective truth in postmodernity is that people should be helping people.

How is it that we have come to the conclusion that we should be agents of social change in our communities? Is this truth given to us by Christ, or is it a cultural value cloaked in Christian terminology and verses? I know, I know - the criticism here is easy to say "who cares, as long as we can agree that it's important? Why can't Gandhi speak truth?" But how we get there matters.

According to Gandhi, we are agents of social change because of human dignity. According to Christ, we are also agents of social change because of human dignity. But also because we have received grace from our heavenly father. Oh, and also because our example in the world will bring glory to our heavenly Father.

When we are not attentive to Jesus as the source of truth, we can miss the boat on some very BIG issues. (The first 4 minutes of THIS VIDEO will illustrate nicely) Yes, this call for social justice has gotten so big in some emergent circles that it has started to eclipse the gospel. The real gospel. The gospel that Gandhi cannot give. The gospel that brings life. The great commission-driven gospel. The you're-a-sinner-Jesus-died-for-you-there-is-an-afterlife gospel.

Jesus puts social justice in its proper context in John 6 when he says, "the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world." (John 6:33) In fact, in the greater context of John 6, Jesus is actually frustrated because the whole point of the miracle - feeding 5,000 people - was for people to turn to God. That act of kindness served the purpose of the gospel. But it was not the gospel.

May we always be attentive to Jesus: the way, the truth, and the life.