Jesus is not Ghandi

david_bazan

Last Thursday Dustin and I saw David Bazan perform a “house show” at our friend Josh’s place. There was about 50 of us nicely packed into the living room where Bazan strummed his guitar and played a great acoustic set that even included some classic Pedro the Lion songs.

Bazan always has a question and answer time at his shows. Dustin saw him a few years back and was really struck by some of the answers he gave. So I was really interested when someone asked him if he believed in an afterlife. I’m not going to write out the whole reply because I don’t remember it accurately enough to do it justice and also I’m a blogger not a reporter. But there was one part that stuck out to me- Bazan said that he is no longer afraid of death and hell. He said he has come to realize that hell is something that some mean people made up as a threat. (He didn’t talk about heaven so I don’t know if he feels that it is something nice people made up or not.) After stating some disgust at the state of the Evangelical church he went on to say that he would just like to see people follow what Jesus taught. There were supportive “yeahs” and light clapping around the room.

I’m not trying to single out Bazan, but he is a good example of a common theology among our culture. It has become popular to see Jesus as a sort of Ghandi figure, quoting the couple of verses that fit their personal idea of who Jesus is- love your neighbor as yourself, take care of the widows and the poor, turn the other cheek, ect.

I find that they often leave out the parts where Jesus talks about the divisive things: the kingdom of Heaven advancing by force, worshipping God and serving only Him, how Jesus will turn people away from heaven, how real hell is and how many will end up there, and don’t even get me started on the parts where Jesus starts predicting the future and talks about a final judgement. These are not the things that you hear when people reference how great Jesus was-WAS-and how we should all follow his example.

People think of Jesus as some really great guy who taught us how to live in love and peace with humanity. The ultimate hippie. That is partly true, in a very pathetic, watered down way. Jesus didn’t see himself that way. He said: “Don’t imagine that I came to bring peace on the earth! No, I came to bring a sword.” Surprised? Read Matt 10:34-39.

Is this the Jesus that you know? If it’s not then it’s time to open a Bible and read who it is you claim to know and follow.

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24 Comments

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24 responses to “Jesus is not Ghandi

  1. Whitney

    Kate this was really good!!! Great post!!!

  2. docdeer

    Great post. Many really have reduced Jesus to a dispenser of pithy sayings on love and community. There is much, much more to who Jesus is.

  3. i like CS Lewis’ argument for this. You can’t just accept Jesus’ teachings and ignore the rest. if he was just a great teacher who claimed to be the Son of God, then he was either a lunatic or liar. but he can’t just be a great man.

  4. I really appreciate this post Kate. This is a challenge at times even for me, especially in our emergent, socially-charged culture. But if Jesus was just a teacher and a “good dude,” then he was actually kind of a huge jerk! He’s always going on about being the Son of God, being higher than anyone on earth, being the end-all-be-all of history; kind of arrogant stuff for someone who’s just a great teacher.

  5. Overall, I agree with this post. I think it’s important to recognize that people who focus on Jesus’ love aren’t necessarily proclaiming that he was just a “good dude”, they are simply admiring this revolution of love that Jesus stood for. I agree though, our walk of faith if multi-dimensional.

  6. Good observation Kate. I thought it was interesting that you mentioned Matt 10:34-39 at the end. I think this verse gives great freedom but also comes with great responsibility. Too often I’ve heard people with “good” intentions throw this around as if they were in the crusades (not good). As much as we are called to a higher standard I also think there’s a point where “love” ends and “self righteousness,” often a weird form of living martyrdom, begins. There can/will be dissension between families and friends because of conflicting beliefs, but that doesn’t mean there can’t be love as well. Too often we forget that Christians are called to love their neighbor AND turn the other cheek (and take another blow, not win the argument). I think it’s easy to drift back and forth between those lines when you don’t place your identity (entirely) in Christ alone, I know it’s a struggle for me. Perhaps the much darker and sinister end of the Ghandi-fied Jesus thought…

  7. Dustin

    Looking beyond our social lives, if we are able, this argument is much more fundamental. Certainly the Jesus who spoke in Matthew 10:34 never intended for His followers to be brutes or jerks, destroying relationships with self-righteousness. His statement was not about social squabbling but of core life changes so great that even close friends and family may not be able to understand one another any longer. This is where the comparison is flawed: Ghandi intended his life to be a stepping-stone, an example of correct living to people along their path, wherever they are headed. Westerners like him because he is a helpful and unifying means to whatever end we wish. This is why nearly every human worldview can assimilate his wisdoms without much indigestion. But far from being a stepping-stone, Jesus presents a different type of rock altogether: Matthew 21:44: “He who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces, but he on whom it falls will be crushed.” Jesus is not a means to an end, He is the end itself. While Ghandi and Jesus may both be examples of admirable social behaviors, only Ghandi leaves this as his ultimate legacy. Indeed, I consider Christ’s social example as a mere side-effect of His perfect social nature. This may be slightly unfair, for there is much value in Christ’s social teachings-but to reduce Him to a social activist is to mistake a cornerstone for a stepping-stone.

  8. Agreed, P. Kate. There’s too much teaching (in churches and out) using Jesus’ example as an argument for social justice. But people are being short-changed with this as they’re not getting the fullness of Christ. Pouring soup in a kitchen is in now way a substitute for true salvation and a life chasing Christ to the fullest.

  9. Paublo

    Kate, I commend you for standing up for truth, especially among your generation that is increasingly denying truth for the “just love em” message of Jesus. Scripture clearly makes an argument that what we believe about who Jesus was is just as important (if not more) than following His example of life.

  10. @mark, I don’t the two are directly related like you are making them. Are people really replacing social justice for salvation? I mean I suppose some people are, but I don’t see churches saying you can bypass salvation and just start doing good. I think that doing good is an outpouring of salvation and there is absolutely nothing wrong with focusing on missional living.

  11. dustin

    JoshM – It isn’t necessarily a question of replacing salvation with “social justice” in churches. I would be the last person to object to a Christian trend towards outreach and mercy. What I believe we are responding to is not a shift towards good works, but an “I will ‘follow Jesus’ if I don’t have to believe in Hell” kind of attitude. There is a fashionable wave of ambivalence toward classic theologies regarding salvation. Since we shy like frightened mustangs at the words “damnation”, “Hell”, “immorality” we shelve them in favor of a Christ-likeness that is easier to soft-sell to the skeptical. Someone might say: “Do you really believe that God would send someone to Hell just because they are gay?”, and we would reply “I don’t know about all of that. I just try to follow the teachings of Jesus and not judge.” And they would be so happy to hear it. While the answer may not be an outright lie, it is diplomacy at best and cowardice at worst. We are not meant to be diplomats of the gospel, but witnesses. As far as good works are concerned, Josh, you are spot on. Living a life of service should be a natural and unconditional fruit of salvation, and our theologies are but clanging cymbals without it.

  12. It’s just that I don’t necessarily see the direct correlation. I understand that in an effort to be diplomatic, we can compromise on things that shouldn’t be. The opposite is also true though; we could polarize certain movements and call them wishy washy, whereas they are trying to discover truth just like we are. As Christians we HAVE to know the Bible better. Personal philosophy should never been depicted as Biblical truth. It’s a direct document connecting us with our God, our Savior and the ancestors of our faith. I think we tend to take that lightly sometimes.

    That said, we need to choose our battles. If a homosexual were to ask me the question you cited earlier, I would respond “God loves you regardless of your orientation. As for hell, your salvation is defined by your acceptance of Christ and nothing else. I can’t tell you exactly what hell is or what it isn’t, all I know is the Bible makes it abundantly clear that separation from God is not a fun/good spot to be.”

  13. dustin

    Good answer. If you can’t see the direct correlation, neither can I, and that is because I don’t think there is one. I think this is a question of theological divergence, not replacement. Christ is so multi-faceted, and many of His facets can be confusing, difficult, and foreign. We don’t replace “Christ the Savior” with “Christ the Social Model” necessarily, but may divert to Him for simplicity. I think my “diplomatic” scenario was unfair also. I don’t think those like Bazan divert to “Christ the Social Model” out of cowardice or diplomacy, but because He is a less existential, problematic character. Either way, you are 100% correct: WE MUST KNOW SCRIPTURE. In a sense, the Bible IS Jesus.

    (ok, no more comments from me, I have exhausted this)

  14. You got to see David Bazan at a house show!! That is so cool.

    And all the stuff about God and Jesus was pretty cool too.

    aj

  15. seanmichaelbrage

    regarding Mark and Dustin’s comments, I think there is a tendency to focus on social justice (poverty, hunger, disease,) and we have a clear responsibility to those issues.

    But ultimately, a person getting healed of a physical disease has a spiritual sickness that no amount of aid work, relief money, or vaccines can remedy.

    While we have a definite and great social responsibility, we have a greater spiritual responsibility, and we cannot simply spoon-feed rice to some and send them on their way, no more aware of or instructed in the gospel of Christ. I think that is where the convo was going.

  16. My point is that you need to cite where people are placing social justice above spiritual needs. I have not seen that any where.

  17. seanmichaelbrage

    I don’t think there is a need to cite anything. I think we see evidence of this anywhere. Think of any orginization that focuses on poverty relief and social issues without presenting the gospel in any way. Curing someone’s cancer does not and will not cure their spiritual condition, and by ignoring the gospel we are placing social justice above spiritual needs. As much as I’d like it to be, the gospel of Christ is not social change. The gospel is Christ’s resurrection. Social change is a by-product.

    • That is a total straw man argument. You are saying if someone focuses on this, that means they neglect the other. That is not how it works. A church focusing on social justice doesn’t directly relate to how much they value salvation.

      • Tim Hurley

        I’m merely trying to say that if you were to look at many orginisations who work to fight AIDS and poverty, further education, etc…, there’s not a focus on the gospel as the reason for social change. Or even a presentation of the gospel. There’s not enough value in social change in and of itself, because one day a person will still die and face an eternity. I’m not trying to say we should hand out chic tracts and be done with it, but social issues are only half of the issue.

  18. Tim Hurley

    Thanks for the post. Great timing for me and my life. I’ve been getting a lot of teaching lately on how we try to put God in our own contexts (Mark 5). We make God a Republican, a Democrat, a crusader for the poor, a defender of traditional marriage, a supporter of gun rights, a total pacifist. Isn’t God… God? I believe His teachings should be followed, and too often I see them fall by the wayside. But, if the reason we follow Christ is because of His teachings, I think we only see Him through a blurred lens. We have to acknowledge that He is I AM. That, He is more than His teaching, more than the troubles that beset the earth. He is above that, and controls all. Don’t abdicate your responsibility to your community, family, city, friends- only have ultimate peace and comfort that, in this world of great sorrow, God Reigns.

  19. BTW, Tim’s first comment was me. Not paying attention to the fact that I was on his computer.

  20. I just don’t see that tension happening. It still seems unfair to me to see a person walking down the street, passing out awareness brochures for Darfur, and assume they are out of line because they aren’t passing out tracts about Jesus. It’s wrong to just assume that they value one over the other just because that is what they are raising awareness about.

    Good deeds are part of preaching Jesus. St Francis of Assissi said (paraphrase) “It is important that Christians preach the Gospel all the time, and when necessary, they should speak”. Mother Theresa spent her entire life simply caring for the orphans in Calcutta. The list goes on and on.

    1 Peter 2:12 says: Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.

    That church was living amongst pagans, atheists and Romans who were completely anti-Christian. Did Paul write them and tell them to make sure they knew what they were doing was wrong, or to stand in the street and pass out Jesus tracts? No. He just simply said to do good among them. I am not saying doing the other stuff is wrong, but at the same time, NEITHER is wrong.

    I think salvation comes from the outpouring of the sprit, and non-believers seeing the fruit of your life, not simply words. Part of being a Christian is caring for the poor, naked and thirsty. (a BIG part). I realize the “Emergent” church is pushing this issue, so it makes you want to fight it, but it seems like a bad battle to pick.

  21. seanmichaelbrage

    I wasn’t trying to downplay one side of this, really I’m not. I agree completely with what you’re saying. And I don’t appreciate the typecast suggesting that just because “Emergent” folks are for something, I’m automatically against it. That’s just unfair to say. I believe fully in service, and believe that if we want to reach the lost, we have to serve them. We have to roll up our sleeves and return to the practice of “dirty” ministry. I’m just trying to reinforce our necessary sense of urgency over people’s eternal condition. I’m afraid of us crossing a line to suddenly feeling as though our work of going into the earth and preaching the gospel is complete once we’ve done enough good deeds. I think it’s easy to mistake someone’s improved condition with their salvation. I’m NOT saying that any author or pastor says or believes that, I’m just suggesting there are 2 sides, and a balance that has to be found, just like everything in life.

  22. This is a great post! I love David Bazan, but he’s a great songwriter, not much of a theologian. What makes me sad is that people try to make Jesus something better by treating him like a “Ghandi” figure, but end up neutering him of what truly made him incredible. If all Jesus was was a great guy who taught people how to love, then I guarantee you David Bazan wouldn’t be talking about him in your friend’s living room.

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