Christ teaching to the apostles was one of non-resistance. In the painting by Ugolino Di Nerio (1280? - 1349) we see Peter trying to protect Jesus by cutting off the right ear of Malcus, the high priest servant. Jesus told him to put up his sword because he knew that it was his Father's will that he must die. He also said to Peter that "All those who take up the the sword will perish by the sword." (Mt 26:52) On another occasion a Samaritan village would not accept Jesus because he was on his way to Jerusalem. James and John were furious and asked Jesus if they could call down fire from heaven to destroy them. Jesus rebuked them as if to say, I came to bring peace not destruction. (Lk 9:51-56) Christ encourages the his followers to have a peaceful attitude as follows: "You have heard that it was said: 'Eye for eye and tooth for tooth.' But I say to you, Offer the wicked man no resistance. If anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; if a man takes you to law and would have your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone orders you to go one mile, go two miles with him." (Mt. 5.38-41) Did Jesus practiced the above? One day Jesus was actually struck by the guard of the High Priest but confronted the guard. He said to the guard to tell him what he said that was wrong, but if I spoken the truth, why do you strike me?
Walter Lippman made the observation that non-resistance if followed literally would abandon the world to the predation of evil men. Quite true! But this does not mean that the ideal has no value as he states, "They [men] can be drawn away from excesses, and, by imitation, they can become in some measure nearer to that which they would be if they had become perfect." (Walter Lippman, Public Philosophy, The New American Library, 1955, p, 116) The early Christians are examples of this ideal. They were persecuted by more than one Roman Emperor but they accepted to be put to death rather than organized into violent resistance in imitation of Christ.
Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948) was born in India but was sent to study law in England. While there he met Christianity and Christian friend who tried to convert him to Christianity. In reading the Old Testament he did not understand much but "The New Testament produced a different impression, especially the Sermon on the Mount which went straight to my heart." (The Story of My Experiment With Truth, Ch. 20)
the poor in spirit, for (heirs is the kingdom of heaven.
"Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
"Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth.
"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
"Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
"Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
"Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me.
"Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you."
However, he did not convert to Christianity for the following reasons, "It was more than I could believe that Jesus was the only incarnate son of God, and that only he who believed in him would have everlasting life. If God could have sons, all of us were His sons. If Jesus was like God, or God Himself, then all men were like God and could be God Himself. My reason was not ready to believe literally that Jesus by his death and by his blood redeemed the sins of the world." Ibid., Ch. 40) It does not appear that he had a clear understanding what "sons of God" meant in Christianity. For him salvation did not lie in faith in Jesus Christ but in each one's purity of heart. Unlike Christ whose primary aim for non-violence was the kingdom of God, Gandhi's primary aim was the liberation of India from British colonial rule by non-violent means such as enduring beatings, imprisonment, fasting and prayer, work stoppages, etc. Even though he came into contact with some knowledge of Christ, he never came to a realization of the mystery and a true knowledge of Christ. We can perhaps say that he did not accept Christ because he never came to really "know Him" for whatever reason. He did put into practice personally and politically the beatitude of peace in a way that many Christians fail to do.
On the last page of
Ghandi's autobiography we read: "My uniform experience
has convinced me that there is no other God than Truth. ... The little fleeting
glimpses, therefore, that I have been able to have of Truth can hardly convey
an idea of the indescribable lustre of Truth, a million times more intense than
that of the sun we daily see with our eyes. In fact what I have caught is only
the faintest glimmer of that mighty effulgence. But this much I can say with
assurance, as a result of all my experiments, that a perfect vision of Truth
can only follow a complete realization of Ahimsa [do no
harm]. To see the universal and all-pervading Spirit of Truth face to
face one must be able to love the meanest of creation as oneself"
6. Peace Among Nations