“I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” ― Mahatma Gandhi
Gandhi gave this response to Christian missionaries who were speaking to Him regarding his views on Christianity. He had encountered Christians in South Africa, where he lived for a time. His experiences with them were pretty much negative, and he was soured on the practice of the Christian religion.
Why do so many people who reject Christ cite as their reason for not following Him the inconsistent and at times anti-Christian behaviors of those who claim to follow Him? There are a great many people who have turned away from following Jesus Christ for this reason. “If that is what following Christ looks like, I want nothing to do with Him!” is a common response.
Yet Gandhi was not soured on the person of Jesus Christ. The Mahatma tried throughout his spiritual journey to include the teachings of Christ in the development of his personal faith and practice. His goal was to integrate these teachings into all of his living.
He was on to something there, something very important. Gandhi was seeking to unite his heart with his eclectic spiritual beliefs, so that he could say with integrity, “My life is my message.” David, the ancient king of Israel, had a similar drive in his own life. In Psalm 86:11-12 he wrote, “Teach me Your way, O Lord; I will walk in Your truth; unite my heart to fear Your name. I will give thanks to You, O Lord my God, with all my heart, and will glorify Your name forever.”
Perhaps the behaviors among those who claim to be Christian that steer people away from Christ Jesus extend from what I call living a “divided life.” By that I mean a life that is divided into the sacred and the secular, or as some would describe it, the religious and the normal. This is a divided life, not a united life. A united heart is David’s prayer, an undivided life his desire. I believe Gandhi, like David, was seeking this unity of living, although he did so by seeking a variety of religious features from different faith systems.
Religiosity speaks of the practices used by adherents of a particular belief system to make themselves acceptable to their deity, or to pursue and apprehend their deity. Religiosity is human-derived and human-powered. The hierarchy and formalism, which are always present yet vary by group, are intended to lend meaning, solemnity or dignity to the religion. They also provide a means of controlling the adherents. While embracing religiosity as a means of finding God may seem to be wise on the surface, hierarchy and formalism have nothing to do with following Christ Jesus.
Religiosity invariably leads to a divided life, a life with some parts controlled by “sacred” influences, and the rest controlled by secular and self-serving influences. This is so because no matter how fervent we are in pursuing religion, it is still based upon our human efforts which cannot take us to transcendence. No life divided can ever draw near to our God as He desires for us or even as we desire. One cannot follow Jesus authentically and wholeheartedly while also living a life divided into religious and secular expressions.
Religiosity, the hierarchies, structures, rituals, dogmas, and strictures we employ to try to help us “find God,” in the end does not help us at all. Truly following Jesus Christ has little if anything to do with religion because of that reason. Religion gets in the way of the apprehension of our God, leave our lives divided, and must lead to incongruity and hypocrisy. Those outside the religious formalism attached to Christianity often see this fact while often those inside it are blinded to it.
“I often wonder if religion is the enemy of God. It’s almost like religion is what happens when the Spirit has left the building.” – Bono in Christianitytoday
One of the great and positive results that derives from truly following Jesus as He invites us to do is the living of an undivided life. Jesus told us in John 10:10 that His purpose was that “…they may have life and have it abundantly.” The Greek for life here means a life “real and genuine, a life devoted.” The Greek for “abundantly” is translatable as life “continuously have it all-around.” A whole and undivided, real and genuine, continuously all-around life.
More on an undivided life in the next post