Jesus’ Worldwide Influence
“ALL that the gospels report of what Jesus said, in private and in public, he could have uttered in two hours,” wrote Bible translator Edgar Goodspeed. “Yet that little was so stirring, so moving and so penetrating that it is safe to say nobody else has influenced the world so much.”
When Jesus Christ completed his earthly ministry in the year 33 C.E., his followers numbered at least some 120 men and women. (Acts 1:15) Today, more than two billion people claim to be Christians. Hundreds of millions more recognize Jesus as a prophet. His teachings have indeed had an extraordinary influence on mankind.
Jesus’ worldwide influence has been acknowledged even by non-Christian leaders. For example, Jewish rabbi Hyman Enelow wrote: “Jesus has become the most popular, the most studied, the most influential figure in the religious history of mankind.” Enelow also stated: “Who can compute all that Jesus has meant to humanity? The love he has inspired, the solace he has given, the good he has engendered, the hope and joy he has kindled—all that is unequalled in human history. Among the great and the good that the human race has produced, none has even approached Jesus in universality of appeal and sway. He has become the most fascinating figure in history.” And Hindu leader Mohandas K. Gandhi said: “I know of no one who has done more for humanity than Jesus. In fact, there is nothing wrong with Christianity.” However, he added: “The trouble is with you Christians. You do not begin to live up to your own teachings.”
Christendom has a long record of failure in living up to Jesus’ teachings. Cecil John Cadoux, historian of Christianity, noted that “the gradual and steady growth throughout the Church of a certain moral laxity” had the “attention of Christian leaders as early as . . . 140 A.D.” He observed: “This abatement of the primitive moral rigour would naturally assist the process of conformity to the ways of the world.”
This process gained momentum in the fourth century, when Roman Emperor Constantine embraced Christianity. “Historians have not failed to notice, and in some cases to deplore,” wrote Cadoux, “the immense compromise to which the Church was committed by her alliance with Constantinus.” During the centuries since then, professed Christians have carried out many dark deeds that dishonor the name of Christ.
The questions of concern, then, are: What did Jesus actually teach? And what influence should his teachings have on us?
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“I know of no one who has done more for humanity than Jesus.”—Mohandas K. Gandhi
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“Nobody else has influenced the world so much.”—Edgar Goodspeed