On this day in 1948, during his evening prayers in the Birla House, Mahatma Gandhi was shot dead by Nathuram Godse. India observes Martyrs’ day in remembrance of Mahatma Gandhi and several other freedom fighters who sacrificed their lives for the country.
As stated by Napoleon Bonaparte, “It is the cause, not the death, that makes the martyr.” The ideology of non-violence for which Gandhi stood inspired many across the globe and continues to inspire even years after his death. Many great leaders decided to follow his footsteps in their political struggles. Martin Luther King, Jr., activist and leader of the civil rights movement in the USA, was greatly influenced by Gandhi’s teachings. According to King, the Gandhian philosophy was “the only morally and practically sound method open to oppressed people in their struggle for freedom.”
Gandhi himself was greatly influenced by the teachings and life of Jesus Christ, among others. On seeing a painting of the crucified Christ in Rome, he remarked “What would not I have given to be able to bow my head before the living image of Christ crucified. I saw there at once that nations, like individuals, could only be made through the agony of the cross and in no other way. Joy comes not out of infliction of pain on others but out of pain voluntarily borne by oneself.”
Gandhi was right to sense that the voluntary suffering and sacrifice of a good person could have the sort of moral impact that defeats injustice and builds nations. But what if God were to come to the world as a human, live a perfect life, and sacrifice himself for the rest of humanity? What sort of seismic moral and spiritual impact would this make? It would probably have the redemptive power to overcome the power of evil altogether. Well, this is precisely what the Bible tells us happened in Jesus. And this is probably why trusting in and following him has not just deeply inspired millions of people through the centuries, but it has utterly transformed them to the extent of redeeming the entire moral fabric of entire societies. This Martyrs’ Day, let this be food for our thought. Please do write in to us if this piece makes you curious enough to ask further questions.