Love: Mahatma Gandhi

​This week, we look outside Christianity to see the universality of love, using the witness of Gandhi as our illustration.   He is also a good follow up to our look at Teilhard de Chardin last week, because Gandhi too saw love as the supreme law of the universe.  In his autobiography he refers to love over eighty times, describing its reality in relation to the total range of our human experiences. [1]

Using the word ‘experiments’ in the title of his book. Gandhi revealed the scientific nature of his understanding of love—that is, he was an explorer, a practitioner.  He experienced and confirmed the truth and love by living it, concluding that “nothing is impossible for pure love,”  Gandhi recognized that despite all attempts to destroy it over time, love prevails. He proved the validity of love in the laboratory of life.

Because of his belief in the supremacy and invincibility of love, nonviolent living became his chosen way of manifesting it.  He called nonviolence the “soul force which is but another name for love force.”  And with that force, he marshalled a movement where love overcame hatred through what Richard Rohr has come to call “the practice of the better.”

Through Gandhi’s witness we see the essence of love (philosophically and theologically), and we see the expression of love (practically and specifically) as the way of life.  And as with Jesus, Gandhi’s death took place in the absence of love.  But as with Jesus, his death became the starting point for a resurrection of love that encircles the world, bringing light wherever it is lived.

Gandhi’s emphasis on love as the only thing which can overcome hate, and his commitment to nonviolence as the practice of love for overcoming it have been mediated to me through John Dear.  Although I will not write a post specifically about him, I want to include him as someone to benefit from when it comes to living in love, particularly in a life of nonviolence. [2]  He is a contemporary Gandhi in our midst.

[1] Mahatma Gandhi, ‘The Story of My Experiments with Truth.’  This book is available in a multitude of formats.  All quotes in this post come from it.

[2] John Dear, ‘The Nonviolent Life’ (Pace e Bene Press, 2013).  Love runs through this book, especially in relation to the two great commandments.

About Steve Harper

Dr. Steve Harper is retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 45 books. He is also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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