There is a famous quote attributed to Mahatma Ghandi*, "I like your Christ. I don't like Christians. They are so unlike your Christ." I spent some time trying to find out whether this quote was real, thought about who else might think this way, searched my life to find out how I look different from Him, and how my life might be hindering the Gospel.
I found a forum that was discussing whether this quote was accurate. This is what it stated:
Even if the quote isn't totally accurate, I think that the overall sentiment remains. We, as Christians, are so different from Christ.
It has been suggested that Ghandi's experience with "Christians" during Apartheid and wars in South Africa may be the basis for his statement. It would be very understandable if this was so. "Christians" have an imperfect record when it comes to human rights, violence, sexual abuse, hoarding wealth, and many other issues.
Enough looking in to the past. I need to look at my life. Are there situations right now, systems that I am supporting, that others might consider wrong, an injustice, or evil? Is there anything I am doing that wouldn't be considered fair? Is there anyone who would look on my actions and say that I am harming others?
We put no obstacle in anyone's way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry. 2 Corinthians 6:3
It makes sense to me that someone who looks at my life, seeing an injustice or harm that I am supporting, would have a jaded view of the message I am trying to deliver. I could be the stumbling block that doesn't let another see Christ's power and deity because my life shows that I don't care about other's plight while claiming that Christ himself is alive within me, guiding my heart and my actions.
The Greatest Commands
And one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question to test him. "Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" And He said to him, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets." Matthew 22:35-40
This is why we at Love Your Neighbor Blog place such an emphasis on this command. We know that the passionate pursuit of loving our neighbor reflects our God's passionate love for us. In everyday ways, through our everyday purchases, or abstaining from purchases, we show how we care about our neighbors. All abuses and sins in my past (and yours) exist because we stopped loving God and others, choosing to act for selfish gain instead.
Let's use an example of sharing the gospel with an atheist. This particular atheist has learned a lot about the fashion industry and now chooses to buy clothing that is fair trade or made in a developed country (USA, Canada, Australia, EU, etc.). When sharing the gospel, you start to talk about loving your neighbor as yourself. The atheist might then question whether you really do because of what you are wearing and what clothing you choose to buy. He or she might say, "There's no way you care about others as much as you do yourself. If you did, you would know the working conditions that your clothes were made in and there's no way you would buy them or feel good about wearing them." He or she might ask if we pray before doing things, to which we might answer "yes, we always want to know what God wants us to do in every situation." They might counter, "You mean to tell me that you prayed about whether or not to buy that shirt you are wearing and God told you to buy that one? No thank you. I want no part of a God like that."
How about a similar example with an environmentalist? During the course of sharing about your faith, you share that you love your neighbor as yourself. They stop you, "There's absolutely no way that you love your neighbor as yourself. Look at what you buy and how you consume! Those things are polluting our water, which is harming our kids. You buy things that emit chemicals which cause developmental issues in infants. I haven't once heard you talk about reducing your impact on the environment. What we do to the environment affect all of us."
The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips and walk out the door and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable. -Brennan Manning
I often wonder what people in countries like China, Bangladesh, India, or Vietnam think when Christian missionaries, or just Christians in general, show up wearing clothes that they or someone they know produced. How do our clothes and consumption color the gospel and their view of Christ? Is our witness elevated by what we choose to wear and consume or is it damaged? Check out this designer's reaction when he learns how and where the clothes he designed were being made:
It makes me sad to think that what I've done in the past has negatively portrayed Almighty God. From this day forward, I want to never be considered a stumbling block. We, as Christians, should be on the forefront of fighting for safe working conditions, fair pay, protecting the environment, and supporting the companies who are doing business the right way. Then, even though non-Christians might not want a god other than themselves, they will at least not be able to fault us for not loving our neighbors. They might even say, "I like your Christ, and I like you Christians, you are just like Christ."
*Chances are that Ghandi is referring to the teachings of Jesus and His lifestyle rather than His claim of deity and His necessary death for anyone to be forgiven (Author's opinion).