Sunday, March 27, 2011

Gandhi in hell? Why that may not be so important

In the 1920s a young man from India studying law in South Africa was becoming disillusioned with Hinduism. Being in a majority-Christian country, he decided to consider Christianity and visit a church; however, because of the custom of that day -- apartheid didn't become law until 1948 -- he wasn't permitted to enter because he wasn't white. Noting that "these people don't practice what they preach," he never again considered becoming a follower of Jesus.

Can you imagine how India might have been changed had Mohandas Gandhi been received in that church?

Of late, one question being asked in cyberspace is: "Is Gandhi in hell?" The boilerplate Christian answer is yes, and that is indeed my view.

But -- what about the people who rejected him? What about those folks who turned out not be themselves true Christians? After all, they were disobedient, not just as an occasional slip but by their open rebellion against Him in supporting racist policies. I don't mean to imply that people are incapable of avoiding sin given its pervasiveness; however, when you not only openly espouse attitudes and policies that oppose God's justice but suggest that God Himself supports injustice, I think that your salvation might be in question.

I say that because the way we often "do evangelism" in the West, especially this country, is that we tell some people to pray some prayer to "accept Christ" for the express purpose of achieving "eternal life," which in this context simply means avoiding punishment. However, much of the Scripture is directly connected to how a Godly person should act down here, which anyone knows can be lacking -- after all, we Christians watch pornography, divorce our spouses and abuse our children at the same rate as the rest of the world. And since, as the Westminster Catechism says, "the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever," part of the weakness of the modern American church is due to its unwillingness to obey Him -- not for "salvation" but to receive the blessing that He wants to give His people.

Gandhi, who had studied the Bible, made the comment that "I like your Christ -- I don't like your Christians"; that's a damning statement, especially because he had known people who didn't represent Him properly. So maybe we ought not to focus on whether Gandhi, who was assassinated in 1948, is suffering eternal punishment -- we need to look at ourselves and wonder if we truly belong to Him and will escape such.

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