Richard Attenborough directed the film Ghandi which won eight Oscars in 1983 and launched the career of Ben Kingsley. It is a powerful film which tells the story of Mohandas Ghandi who through his nonviolent civil disobedience broke Britain’s colonial rule of India. Ghandi admired Jesus Christ and was especially fond of the Sermon on the Mount. Yet, Ghandi lived his life as a Hindu and never became a Christian. At the time of the movie, Philip Yancey wrote “Ghandi and Christianity” which pointed out that part of Ghandi’s reluctance was due to the kind of lives he saw among those who professed Christ.1
Inconsistencies. As a law student in Britain, Ghandi became exposed to the Bible and to those who professed to be Christians. After many Sunday sermons, he complained of uninspiring sermons and a congregation who “appeared rather to be worldly-minded, people going to church for recreation and in conformity to custom.”
Prejudice. Attenborough’s movie tells of Ghandi’s experience in South Africa. He was among supposedly Christian people, but he found discrimination. He was thrown off trains and excluded from hotels and restaurants, because as he put it, he was considered “a coloured man.” E. Stanley Jones is quoted by Yancey as saying, “Racialism has many sins to bear, but perhaps its worst sin was the obscuring of Christ in an hour when one of the greatest souls born of a woman was making his decisions.”
Reflecting Christ. Ghandi’s bad experiences only serve to underscore the importance of Paul’s words: “And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts” (2 Corinthians 3:3, ESV). Paul is using the image of a letter of recommendation. A letter of recommendation introduces and commends someone by telling of his or her character and qualifications. Paul tells the Corinthians that they are “Christ’s letter.” They are a letter of recommendation for Jesus Christ. Their lives are introducing others to Jesus. Their lives are speaking volumes about who Jesus is.
Christians should live lives “worthy of their calling.” We should conduct ourselves so that we are an accurate letter of Christ for the world to read even though we are not perfect. We may be the only “letter” that some may see, and we may be the “letter” that influences their decision. Let us be conscious of our function as letters of recommendation. Ghandi’s life reminds me that this has at times been done poorly. Let us rise to the task and reflect Christ in our lives.
1Christianity Today (April 8, 1983):16.