4 Non-Christian Leaders Who Loved Jesus
Christ is an example for more than just Christians.
By Stephanie Hertzenberg
When He was here on Earth, Christ reached out to Jews and gentiles alike. He preached to Hebrews, converted Pharisees and spent time in the Temple. He also spoke to Samaritans, pagans and the sorts of men and women with whom no self-respecting Jew would ever be caught dead.
The Christmas story itself shows that Jesus was always someone who drew people of many backgrounds. He may have been sent to give the Jews the first shot at accepting His teachings, but some of the first to come honor Jesus were three astronomers and scientists from areas that would correspond to modern day Iran, Iraq and Saudi Arabia. Later called the Magi, these men were not Jews.
It is quite possible that they knew little about Judaism beyond that it was the religion practiced in Israel. Yet, they answered the call to honor Christ while Herod, a Jew, plotted to murder the infant Jesus.
It is unlikely that those three men became Christians later in life, but they still journeyed far to show respect to a newborn king. Similarly, there are many non-Christians who look up to Christ not as the Son of God but as an incredible moral teacher and man of great honor. Here are four non-Christian leaders who loved Jesus.
Thich Nhat Hanh
Thich Nhat Hanh has spoken openly of his love for Christ. In fact, he has written an entire book revolving around the subject. In “Living Buddha, Living Christ” Thich Nhat Hanh explores the similarities between Christianity and Buddhism and how the two religions can understand themselves in light of the other.
For Thich Nhat Hanh, the meeting place between Christianity and Buddhism is more than an academic interest. It is a place he lives every day. In the very first chapter of “Living Buddha, Living Christ,” Thich Nhat Hahn describes Jesus as “one of [his] spiritual ancestors” and says that he began to see the beauty of Christianity and Christ’s teachings after observing those who truly lived Christianity.
Those who were true to their faith, not just Christian in name, were, in Thich Nhat Hanh’s eyes “holy people.” In fact, Thich Nhat Hanh challenges Christians to live out their faith even further. “Are we making Jesus’ presence real in our churches today?” he asked. If not, then Christians should take a closer look at the teachings of their beloved founder.
As the founder of Islam, it seems odd that Muhammad would be considered to be a man who loved Jesus. After all, Muslims reject the idea of Christ’s divinity, His resurrection and even His death. The rejection of the idea of Jesus as the Son of God, however, does not mean that Jesus, son of Mary, was not an important figure in early Islam.
In Islam, Jesus was born without sin as the result of a virginal conception, performed miracles as a great prophet, was rescued by God before His death, was raised alive into heaven and will return to Earth in the Second Coming to fight a false messiah and establish peace on earth.
Given that Jesus was seen as one of the greatest prophets to ever come to Earth, Muhammad had great respect for Him. Jesus was the penultimate messenger from God who brought down the great revelations of the Gospels. To Muhammad, He was not the Savior He is in Christianity, but Jesus was nonetheless a great prophet to be respected, beloved and someone from whom Muhammad should learn.
Thomas Jefferson grew up in a Christian world, but he did not consider himself a Christian. Jefferson believed in the existence of a Supreme Being and Creator of the universe, but he rejected the divinity of Christ and the Christian concept of the Holy Trinity. Jefferson did not believe in the miracles that the Gospels attributed to Christ and actually took a blade and cut them out of his Bible.
After he finished removing all mentions of the supernatural, what was left behind were the moral and ethical teachings of Christ. This document came to be known as the Jefferson Bible and was used by Jefferson regularly for spiritual guidance and solace.
Though he had become an apostate in the eyes of orthodox Christianity, Jefferson still loved Jesus fiercely. He rejected the idea of Christ’s resurrection but felt that His teachings were the “outlines of a system of the most sublime morality which has ever fallen from the lips of a man.”
Mahatma Gandhi is sometimes painted as someone who was anti-Christian. In reality, however, he had nothing against Christianity. What Gandhi took issue with were those so-called Christians who did not truly live their faith but instead oppressed his countrymen and took advantage of their power.
Gandhi once said, “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” Gandhi was not against Christ but against those who professed to follow Him and then did nothing of the sort.
In a private letter, Gandhi praised Christ and His teachings. “I have not been able to move beyond the belief that Jesus was one of the great teachers of mankind,” Gandhi wrote. “Do you not think that religious unity is to be had not by a mechanical subscription to a common creed but by all respecting the creed of each?”
Christ has always touched people of many backgrounds. Even among those who do not believe that He was anything more than an ordinary man or simply another prophet, there are a number who find His teachings worthy of great respect. They disagree with the theology of the New Testament, but still find moral advice within its pages. Such people in many ways look at Jesus the way He was in His time on Earth, not as the Prince of Peace, but simply as “teacher.” beliefnet.com