Christ of the Indian Road is a book comprised of the observations E. Stanley Jones has as he ministered in India in the early 20th Century. I find it quite amazing that this book was written nearly 90 years ago, because in it, I find revelations about sharing Christ cross-culturally that I myself, and I think the Church as a whole, are beginning to rediscover. I guess there really is nothing new under the sun.
Jones examines how we, as followers of Christ, can strip down our gospel to the basics, and what those basics are. Is Jesus enough, can we simply remove all the baggage that western Christianity has attached to the gospel, and simply introduce Jesus. Can we allow the culture to fall in love with Christ, be inspired by the life Christ lived, and seek to follow him. Can we let go of Christ, and allow people of different cultures and faiths the licence to worship and follow Him as they see fit without the fear that Christ will be diluted or changed. Christ stands unmodified, Christ is universal; our customs are not universal and can be modified or even removed as Christ penetrates another culture and people.
One of the most interesting aspects of the book was the fact that it was written during the life and work of Gandhi and the book gives a glimpse of the spiritual, chemical-reaction-like response as the ingredients of Gandhi, Christ and Indian people mix on the Indian subcontinent. Jones records the view of some Indians, namely that Gandhi was a very Christ-like man, some even believed him to be Christ incarnate or that he fulfilled the second coming of Christ. Blasphemy? Perhaps, but Jones is quick to point out, that Indians were comparing Gandhi to Christ, Christ was their ideal, the perfect man, the measuring stick by which all others are compared.
Does Gandhi measure up, no, nobody does. But Gandhi, intentionally or unintentionally living a Christ-like life, may have single handily pointed more Indians toward the Kingdom than a whole slew of western missionaries. Jones records an observation from a Hindu thinker who said:
“What missionaries have not been able to do in fifty years Gandhi by his life and trial and incarceration has done, namely, he has turned the eyes of India toward the cross.”
Jones also had a chance to interact personally with Gandhi. At one point he asks Gandhi, ‘What advice would you give to us western missionaries in India?’ I find Gandhi’s answers profound and something that each of us today should reflect on in our own lives as we share Christ with others.
- “I would suggest, first, that all of you Christians, missionaries and all, must begin to live more like Jesus Christ.”
- “Second, I would suggest that you must practice your religion without adulterating or toning it down.”
- “Third, I would suggest that you must put your emphasis upon love, for love is the center and soul of Christianity.”
- “Fourth, I would suggest that you study the non-Christian religions and culture more sympathetically in order to find the good that is in them so that you might have a more sympathetic approach to the people.”