That Jesus is not like Ghandi is almost a sacrilegious thing to say since the two are not even comparable. One is the Creator, God incarnate, sovereign, and Savior. The other is the creation, human, a sinner perishing apart from the savior for his rejection of Christ. Yet when Jesus is often proclaimed nowadays He is preached in such a way that He is taught to be much like Ghandi. For some a difference is that Jesus meant for His words to be practiced (as if Ghandi didn’t).
“Just follow Jesus” in His life example and all is well. Jesus taught us morality and love and all must pursue this for the greater good of humanity. After all “no one puts lamp under a basket” so goes the sentiment. The idea seems to be that to “follow Jesus” simply means to live His example.
There is one fundamental problem- an unbeliever can’t. There is something in the natural human make up that with out the saving grace of God is bent on sin. Have you ever observed a leopard change it’s own spots? Is not that what God says about the sinner through the prophet Jeremiah? He asks, “Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots? Then also you can do good who are accustomed to do evil” (Je 13:23). Is not that consistent with “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one” (Ro 3:10–12)? Which is consistent with John 8:34 and is consistent with Ephesian 2:1-3. How come those that present Jesus as example never preach or teach on these passages and how they relate to “come follow me?” The call to follow Christ was not given in a vacuum.
The problem of man is not that he needs reform. Not even a little more morality will suffice. Man’s problem is that he is sinner “dead in his trespasses and sins.” He is a rebel an enemy of God, a breaker of His law; destined to be consumed by His just wrath unless God mercifully, graciously and lovingly intervenes (1 Thess. 1:9-10; 5:1-11, Jn. 3:36, Ro. 3:5-6; 4:15, Rev. 6:12-17; 16:1-11 ). It is at this point that we hear the beautiful words of John the Baptist when speaking of Christ- “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world (Jn 1:29)! And why the Apostle Paul can say- “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Co 2:1–2). And again- “But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world(Ga 6:13–14).
Sinful man needs life, forgiveness and the righteousness of Christ ( John 10:10; 17:1-3, Mk. 2:5-11, Act. 2:38, Heb. 4:22, Phil. 3:8-11, ). That is why the precious Gospel of Christ is of eternal importance. It gives rest for the soul while the moral example of Jesus causes much grief and stress for the sinner trying to follow His example but failing to keep it. His conscience is tormented day and night, as Martin Luther’s was, in trying to make the law his hope of salvation. As Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones said it:
Such was the teaching of the theological school called Modernism or Liberalism which came in about the middle of the last century in this country. Its theme was ‘the Jesus of history’. They took out miracles, indeed the entire supernatural element, and the substitutionary atonement. What is Jesus? ‘Ah,’ they said, ‘Jesus is the greatest religious teacher the world has ever known. Listen to His teaching, emulate His example, follow Him; and if you do so you will be a good Christian. Do not bother about doctrines, they are not important; it is Jesus’ teaching that matters.’
So Christianity has been reduced to a moral and an ethical code and teaching. That leads inevitably to failure and to disaster, for it leaves the whole business to us as individuals. I have got to admire the teaching, next I am required to accept it, and then I have to proceed to put it into practice. It is left entirely to me. ‘Ah but,’ they say, ‘look to the example of Jesus.’ Example of Jesus? I know of nothing that is so discouraging as the example of Jesus! As I look at His moral stature, at His absolute perfection, as I see Him walking through this world without sin, I feel that I am already condemned and hopeless. Imitation of Christ? It is the greatest nonsense that has ever been uttered! Imitation of Christ? I who cannot satisfy myself and my own demands, and other people still less—am I to imitate Christ? The saints make me feel ashamed of myself. I read of men like George Whitefield and others, and I feel that I have not yet started. And yet I am told to take this ethical teaching of the Sermon on the Mount, this idealistic social teaching, and to put this into practice! ‘It is so marvellous,’ they say, ‘it will stimulate you; look at Him and follow Him! (emphasis mine)’*
It is important to note that Lloyd-Jones was responding to the presentation of Jesus’ example without the proclamation of Christ’s penal substitutionary death in the Gospel.
Isn’t that what many modern Jesus as example advocates do today? They neglect the cross of Christ. They treat it very minimal while emphasizing the example of Christ. Sure they may even affirm the miraculous but they certainly deny or avoid the substitutionary death of Christ for sinners. Could it be that they avoid preaching the cross of Christ because that would mean they have to talk about sin, judgment, God’s wrath along with forgiveness, life (abundant) and salvation? Or perhaps the cross is little spoken of by them because they deny those things and therefore not that significant in terms of salvation (what exactly in their view are we saved from anyway) but more in relation to His example of self-denial for the greater good of humanity?
How about Mark 4:21? Simply put it tells us what Christians look like and that we are not to shack up somewhere in isolation but that our fruit should be public for the glory of God and the benefit of our neighbors. What it is not telling us is that our works are the basis of our salvation. In other words Christ is stating what Christians ought to look like not how one becomes a Christian. He already made clear how one follows Him and becomes a Christian back in Mark 1:15 when He says, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” Both repentance and faith are life long, not onetime, acts.
No, my friends, Jesus is not like Ghandi. Nor is Ghandi like Jesus. In fact contrary to Rob Bell, Ghandi, is as Jonathan Edwards so biblically put it, a sinner in the hands of an angry God. That is why Christ bluntly stated “No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” (Lk 13:5).
Soli Deo Gloria!
For His Glory,
*Lloyd-Jones, D. M. (1976). The Christian Warfare : An Exposition of Ephesians 6:10 to 13 (33). Edinburgh; Carlisle, Pa.: Banner of Truth Trust.