Ghandi has a quote that is attributed to him, and I guess I have no reason to doubt he said it. It goes like this “I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” Isn’t that an interesting quote on so many levels?
First of all there is a lot of hypocrisy in this statement. Was Ghandi like Christ? Some people think he was. Ghandi, never professed to be a Christian, as far as I know, but he is saying that if more people acted like Christ, then it might work better for him. Sure, I suppose… But more importantly, I agree with him. I also disagree with him, but I’m not going to spend time showing why I disagree, because I think there is enough here for the point of this article as to why I agree with his quote.
As a reminder, I started this little series based on a discussion I had with a friend over the years on whether one should be a follower of Christ, or Christ like. I argued that if we don’t start by following Christ we will never strive to be like Him, and that most will never TRULY follow Christ. Many will profess to follow, but when the going gets hard, the hardened get going.
But back to Ghandi…
Ghandi claims that Christians are not like Christ, and I have a lot of agreement with him on this point, so, how are we that truly follow Christ to be like Him? Have we considered, from the Bible, what it means to be like Christ? Let’s look at just two ways that we are to be like Christ. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 11:1 Imitate me as I imitate Christ. Paul understood the desire to be like Christ. He had a proper grasp on what was valuable, but he also knew what it meant to really imitate Christ.
Jesus Christ suffered. And so did Paul.
Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God… – 2 Timothy 1:8 The Christian life and suffering should be synonymous, this is being like Christ and being like Paul.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. – Matthew 5:10
Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. – 2 Timothy 3:12
For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God. For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: – 1 Peter 2:20-21
The suffering and patient endurance for the spread of the gospel should be a privilege for all Christians to share in. Did you get that? It’s a privilege to suffer for the sake of the gospel. Yet in modern Christianity suffering for the gospel probably means the air conditioning is out at your church, or the latte machine is broken.
We have no concept of what it means to suffer for the sake of the gospel, in some cases you might be marginalized or laughed at. If you do any sort of open air ministry you will most definitely be mocked, if you are preaching the true gospel, but rarely will you be beaten. At least not in this country. So I think that true biblical suffering is not readily experienced by most Christians, in fact it’s experienced by very few. However, I will offer some hope that the day is coming when the true elect of God will be revealed through the suffering of the church and it appears that day is not very far away. Do yourself a favor and begin to experience it now, so it won’t come upon you as some sort of surprise.
From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” – Matthew 4:17
Well now, that’s a little bit inconvenient for most of us. In a culture that likes to say “preach the gospel always and if necessary use words” this upsets the apple cart. The word “preach” literally means public proclamation.
The word κηρύσσω kērýssō is a word that carries force and gravity. It means that someone is confronted to make a decision about what they have heard. In fact it demands a decision, and it is a call to obey. In the days before newspapers, the nightly news, and the internet, the way a king would get his message to his subjects was through a herald. One that was sent to deliver the message of the king. He went into the town square and read publicly the message. The subjects were called to obey.
Now it came to pass, when Jesus finished commanding His twelve disciples, that He departed from there to teach and to preach in their cities. – Matthew 11:1
But He said to them, “Let us go into the next towns, that I may preach there also, because for this purpose I have come forth.” – Mark 1:38
And He (Christ) commanded us to preach to the people, and to testify that it is He who was ordained by God to be Judge of the living and the dead. – Acts 10:42
Why is this so important? Why such a radical call? Most professing Christians will think this is a foolish way to spread the love of Christ and they will offer alternatives like friendship evangelism, life-style evangelism or “missional” group evangelism. I’m not saying we should not evangelize our friends, or those in our life, or we shouldn’t have groups of people sitting around talking about missions, but this is not the primary biblical model that Christ, the apostles, the early church, and the church of the past century utilized.
Why this method?
Paul is very helpful to our understanding of why open air preaching and gospel proclamation is imperative to the spread of the good news. In short God uses this method to save people. Not all will be saved in this manner, but many will.
So, as much as is in me, I am ready to preach the gospel to you who are in Rome also. For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. – Romans 1:15-16
Do we see it? The gospel saves…
The proclamation of the gospel, in particular, through the foolish preaching of the cross of Christ (1 Corinthians 1:18) is the method that God, in His wisdom, chose to save those who believe. That is hard to comprehend, but it is the truth.
And I can affirm to you that one way to bring suffering (like Christ) is to proclaim the gospel. Publicly, for those called to do so, through the oversight of your church. The local church is to provide cover and support for this endeavor. The Elders affirm a man’s ability to preach and they provide accountability, and protection against errant messages. Understanding that it is to be men that publicly preach, just as in the local assembly. Women are also called to serve in evangelism but not in the same way as preachers. They can be engaged in one on one conversations, or passing out gospel tracts and eliciting conversations with people. In properly ordered churches this will have an impact on the community. In this manner we can begin to disciple the nations (Matthew 28:18-20). It’s a beautiful thing.
This will bring persecution and it will bring salvation’s. If you want to be like Christ, these are two ways for you to imitate Paul as he imitates Christ.