Mr. Balachandran Chullikkad, a Malayalam poet, who converted to Buddhism some years back recently quoted in a Malayalam news paper’s Sunday edition, “I have not been able to implement Buddhist principles comprehensively. I don’t think I can ever. I just try; that’s it. How harder may I try, the same difference between Christ and Christians will be there between Budha and me.” It’s not clear here what extent of difference does the poet imply; but, the distance between Christ and Christians has been the subject of scrutiny by different thinkers at different times.
It can be surmised from Mahatma Gandhi’s autobiography that his initial attraction towards Christianity did not convert into Christian faith as he was put off by the lack of probity in the lives of some Christians he came into contact with. The renowned philosopher - sage Swami Vivekananda, in his writings, was generous in praising Christ, but severely criticized Christians. The late Pastor V. A. Thomas, a popular preacher in Kerala a couple of decades back, used to comment about some preachers that they should be made to preach behind curtains as their actions didn’t match their words.
The first century Christians made wholehearted attempts to follow Christ in thoughts, actions and words. Discounting some stray incidents, the church then was Christ centric. “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I choose you out of the world therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you,’ a servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you; if they kept my word, they will keep yours also” (John 15.18-20). Those saints took Jesus words at their face value and emulating their master did not wilt under pressure in the face of slanders, tribulations and sufferings.
With the onslaught of time, gradually changes became evident in the lifestyles of Christians. The practice of altering doctrines to suit the convenience of certain people brought about a wane in loyalty towards Christ’s commandments. Due to the intense desire to indulge in the comforts and pleasures of the world, the followers of Christ forged an unholy alliance with the world. Instead of ‘it is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher and the servant like his master, the trend was now to become different from the Master. As the clergy and laity chose to deviate from the path traversed by Christ, the decline of an ideal society from spiritual to materialistic became rampant.
Today, even in our best phases, we are mere shadows of our forefathers, Christ like attitudes are becoming extinct in the contemporary Christian world. Our life styles mar our Christian witnessing. Austerity, humility, respect of peers, compassion and sacrificing mentality are no more the qualities we possess. Lives in which the streams of love are fast drying up, can’t possibly channel love to a world pining for true love.
The pretence of some preachers gives the impression that they themselves are able to forgive sins and heal diseases. Here I remember a Malayalam movie director’s complement to an actor “his humility was not like applying lipstick”. This means his humility was very much genuine. The humility shown by many Christian preachers is not as genuine as that of a cine actor. The example of Jesus washing the feet of His disciples is regarded as a mere custom for us.
Many believers say we cannot become like Christ, because we have human weaknesses. But, Saint Paul expects every believer to become a perfect man to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ and grow up in all things to Him who is the head- Christ. The distance between Paul who rejoice in his sufferings for God’s children to fill up in his flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ for the sake of His body and the present evangelists who prefer to lie low even when a mild opposition or a minute trouble emerges is quite large. Then picture, how far they are from Jesus.
Those who were once far off have been brought near in the blood of Christ. Yet, believer’s deeds give away an intent of getting alienated again. Paul exhorted believers to be imitators of him as was of Christ (1 Cori.11.1). This simply means to emulate Christ. The afore-mentioned poet says that he is trying to implement the teachings of his dispensation. But, the self proclaimed Christians don’t even try. Hence, the distance between Christ and Christians is increasing as never before.