Mohandas Gandhi was once quoted as saying: “I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” It is a critique that always cuts me to the core. The name Christian is literally supposed to mean “little Christ” and yet I am painfully aware of how many times that I do not follow Jesus.
I was reminded by Gandhi’s words earlier today when I read Al Mohler’s CNN opinion piece "Why Christians should support the death penalty." The interesting thing about this article is that in presenting an argument about what Christians should believe about the death penalty, Mohler never talks about Christ.
Mohler talks about Paul. He talks about Noah. But he doesn’t wrestle with what Jesus says about turning the other cheek. Or anything Jesus has to say for that matter. I’m sure he has, but he doesn’t mention it here. Yeah, Noah and Paul are important. Yet I think that it is gravely irresponsible to write an article about what Christians should believe about a topic and never delve into things that Christ said or did that could illuminate our belief.
Now I am not saying that Al Mohler is not a Christian. I am also not saying that individuals who approve of capital punishment are not Christians. Cards on the table, I personally believe that support of capital punishment runs counter to an ethic of being pro-life (and that issues of poverty, education, etc. fall under that umbrella). But the fact that Mohler disagrees with me is not what troubles me. I understand that there is room for conversation about this issue within the Christian faith.
No what bothers me is the absence of the life and teaching of Jesus in a discussion about how Christians should live. That absence does not just happen with this particular issue. Gandhi’s critique was actually made in relation to the rampant materialism that he saw amongst Christians. Yet we don’t talk about that too often. I am guilty of this in many areas as well.
Though we are saved by grace through faith, we are called to imitate the One that saved us. Jesus is not just the means by which we can come to God. He was the template for a new creation, a creation that we are called to live out.
There are so many difficult questions and issues that we face today. If we try to navigate this labyrinth without seriously considering the way of Jesus, then I fear that Gandhi was right about us. I realize we will not all agree about everything, but I do believe that what we talk about must start and end with the one from whom we take our name.