07 December 2006

What does it take?

Recently we've been reading a book together by E. Stanley Jones called Christ of the Indian Road. Jones wrote it 1925, when India was barely two decades away from exerting its independance from the British Empire. It is a provoking book, choc-a-bloc with amazing insights, deep thought, and profound thinking about what it means to walk a spiritual journey as an apprentice to Jesus in another culture.

ESJ wants people to know that Jesus can be, and must be, seen as 'one of us' who is 'more than us.' So, when he speaks of the Christ of the Indian Road he is speaking of a Jesus who is Indian--not an anglo, blue-eyed and fair-haired, but One who identifies Himself with people of a culture.

At one point, he relates this story:

"A friend of mine was talking to a Brahman gentleman when the Brahman turned to him and said, 'I don't like the Christ of your creeds and the Christ of your churches.' My friend quietly replied, 'Then how would you like the Christ of the Indian Road?" The Brahman thought a moment, mentally picturing the Christ of the Indian Road---he saw him dressed in Sadhus' garments, seated by the wayside with the crowds about him, healing blind men who felt their way to him, putting his hands upon the heads of poor unclean lepers who fell at his feet, announcing the good tidings of the Kingdom to stricken folks, staggering up a lone hill with a broken heart and dying upon a wayside cross for men, but rising triumphantly and walking on that road again. He suddenly turned to the friend and earnestly said, 'I could love and follow the Christ of the Indian Road.'"

The failure we who do love and follow Christ experience in seeing other people come to do so too often comes because we restrict Jesus to a replica of us rather than seeking to be an authentic replica of him. Jones, who knew Mahatma Gandhi personally, once asked him, 'I am very anxious to see Christianity naturalized in India, so that it shall be no longer a foreign thing identified with a foreign people and a foreign government, but a part of the national life of India and contributing its power to Indials uplift and redemption. What would you suggest that we do to make that possible?'

Gandhi replied with four suggestions:
  1. All Christians must begin to live more like Jesus Christ.
  2. Practice your religion without adulterating or toning it down.
  3. Put emphasis on love, for love is the center and soul of Christianity.
  4. Study the non-Christian religions and culture more sympathetically in order to find the good that is in them, so that you might have a more sympathetic approach to the people.

As Jones so vividly states at the beginning of the first chapter, 'Christian service cannot rise above the Christian servant.' Those of us who wish others to love and follow Christ must love and follow Him, ourselves, as One who is worthy to be loved and followed and are accordingly transformed in so doing.

No comments: