I’ve heard the quote, “I don’t like your Christians, but I like your Christ,” attributed to Gandhi.
I think Gandhi said this because on paper, Jesus is the greatest human being to ever walk this earth! His moral and ethical teachings are hands down the best. They’re quoted even to this day by people who are not Christians, such classic gems as, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” which is now called the Golden Rule. Some have even traced the freedom and equality of women in society, directly to Jesus’ teachings and interactions with and concerning women. Parables attributed to Jesus’ teachings in the Gospels can be found in non-religious literary textbooks, as well as his famous Sermon on the Mount. He’s always at or near the top of the list for most influential people in history.
It seems that a growing number of people are taking a stance like Gandhi, liking Christ but not liking “organized religion”. They cite the Crusades! They cite fraudulent practices within the church to make a buck, they cite Roman Catholic priests who molest boys, and other horrendous acts committed by Christians who don’t live up to the teachings of Christ.
I’d like to note that these people are focusing on the ability of Christians to live up to Jesus’ teachings in the Law of God as a way of justifying faith in Christ. Faith in Christ is not centered on the observance of the Law. In fact, in his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees (religious goody-goodies), you can’t enter the kingdom of heaven. Jesus in this one claim, threw everyone under the bus of condemnation who heard his sermon!
If someone discredits Christianity because of the sinful lives of Christians, then they don’t even know what they are rejecting. We must move beyond Christianity and focus on Christ! Who is he? We must share that he was more than a good man, more than a moral teacher, more than a sacrificial philanthropist of the early first century. He claimed to be God! A good man can’t claim to be God if he’s not God. If he claims to be God and he’s not God, he’s a liar, not a good man! He’s a deceiver. Or if he thinks he’s God, but he’s not, he must be deranged, a lunatic. None of these fit with his character recorded within the Bible or from extra-biblical sources near the time of his life. His disciples could have always lied in their historical accounts of him, but why would they do that? They didn’t gain anything for their efforts besides persecution and death.
In conclusion, we must focus on Christ. Who is Jesus, what did he claim about himself, did he back up those claims? What if he rose from the grave as the Gospels proclaim? What would that mean? Does that verify his claims to divinity? Ask questions that lead people to Jesus, to the good news. Admit the faults of the church, admit the stain of sin within us all, admit that Jesus acknowledged that none of us could live up to the righteousness required in his teachings – that’s why we need him, our one and only Savior from sin and death! Encourage people to look at all of Christ’s message, not just his morals! If you only accept the ethics in Christ’s teachings, then you don’t really like Christ! Don’t reject Christ because of Christians. Christians are the messengers, not the message. Don’t let the messengers get in the way of the message. Focus on Jesus!