On this day in 1930, Mohandas Gandhi took the first steps of a 240-mile march to the seaside town of Dandi in western India. The daunting walk was not a charity marathon; it was a nonviolent protest of a repressive British law that forbade Indians from collecting or making salt. Going hand-in-hand with the law was a heavy salt tax.
Initially accompanied by 78 followers, the 61-year old Gandhi picked up thousands of supporters on his way to the sea. Upon his arrival in Dandi on April 5, Gandhi addressed the crowd and led prayers. The next morning, he walked down to the beach to make salt. Patiently practicing the principles of civil disobedience, Gandhi and his followers finally won Indian independence in 1947.
Deeply inspired by the Sermon on the Mount, Gandhi once said, “When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love has always won.” The general population believes that the “way of truth and love” is impractical. You may have heard someone say that the teachings of Jesus are a lovely ideal, but would never work in the “real world.” (Maybe you’ve even heard that from church people).
Jesus was no ivory-tower theologian. He got into the game and commanded his disciples to do the same. Like a pioneer shepherd, he crossed taboo boundaries and blazed trails of grace to reclaim the black sheep and broken-legged lambs of his day. Into his flock he gathered lepers and losers, cheaters and children, the unlovely and unwanted. He healed a centurion’s servant in an atmosphere crackling with anti-Roman sentiment. He cleansed the demon-inhabited daughter of a Syrophoenician woman when female and second-class were synonymous, and the mentally-tormented were feared and rejected. Jesus even had the nerve of center-piecing one of his parables with a half-breed hero who bound the wounds of a beaten traveler, and confounded his own disciples by refusing to torch a Samaritan village for rejecting their message.
“God so loved the world that he gave his only Son…” The world of prisons, sickbeds, crooked deals, war, funerals, and class prejudice. The real world that Jesus visited and where Christ is now.
So must his church be.