"Why aren't Christians more like Christ?" This question is asked frequently.
There's a quote that's often misattributed to Gandhi that perhaps sums up the sentiment most eloquently: "I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ." The quote actually stems from a Hindu Indian philosopher called Bara Dada, but nevertheless, as a Christian you've probably heard it preached from a church pulpit at some stage in your life, and when you did it was probably being used to underpin the the message that we, as Christians, are failing to reflect our Saviour to the world properly.
Fair enough. We can have no problem with that message. Since our primary goal is to become like Jesus and to tell people about Jesus, we as Christians should be analysing our progress. We should be honest about our failures. We should be asking how we can do it better. However, before we chastise ourselves too severely, I think we need some clarification here. We need to ask, "Bara Dada, as a Hindu, do you actually know who Jesus is? When you say we need to become more like him, do you really have an accurate concept of what that would look like? Could it be that we, as self-identified believers who read our Bibles regularly, study his Word, gather in his name, pray, and worship him every day of our lives...could it be that we have a more accurate picture of Jesus than you do? And could it be that we look more like him than you realise?" Maybe it's just Bara Dada's picture of Jesus that is skewed. Maybe if Bara Dada had known the real Jesus, he would've liked him even less than he liked Christians!
And perhaps the same can be said of those headline writers above too. "Why aren't Christians more like Christ?" they say. "I'm sick of Christians who don't act like Christ" they complain. Alright, I'll be honest about this...we could be doing better. It's true. I don't know a Christian out there who wouldn't hold their hands up and admit they have failings. But at the same time headline writers, "are you sure you even know who Christ is? Perhaps we're being more like Christ than you realise."
I say this because in this Liberal generation, when people accuse Christians of not being Christlike, what they most often mean is something along the lines of, "why are you Christians so bigoted as to have a problem with gay marriage, or me sleeping with my girlfriend? Why are you so arrogant to suggest you have exclusivity on the truth and that all other religions are wrong? Why do you presume to say that all non-Christians will go to hell? Why don't you just accept and love people like Jesus did? Jesus hung out with sinners, preached tolerance and was all about love, so why can't you be more like that?"
And if that's what they mean then I have to explain that we can't be more like that Jesus because that Jesus simply doesn't exist. He's a figment of the liberal imagination. Why do we Christians speak against sexual sin? Only because Jesus did. He said, "But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.” (Revelation 21:8) Do you hear what Jesus is saying there? Unrepentant sexual immorality means hell. That's his words, not ours. We didn't write that. We wouldn't dare say anything like that! We're just passing on the message.
Why are we 'so arrogant' to suggest that Jesus is the only truth? The only way to God? Because Jesus himself said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6) Again...his words. We're just passing them on.
Why do we presume to say that all unbelievers will go to hell? Because Jesus said it. "Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned." (Mark 16:16) Once more, we're just passing on what he said.
Did Jesus hang out with sinners? Yes, he did. But did he 'preach tolerance' for sin like you suggest? Never. Jesus spent time with sinners in order that he might liberate them from their sin. That he might transform them and lead them into righteousness. After saving the adulterous woman, what did he say to her? "Go get back to your adultery and if anyone confronts you about it, get all up in their face"? No, he didn't say that. He said, "Go and sin no more." (John 8:11) He demanded righteousness from her from that day forward. He demanded change.
Do you see the challenge we have as Christians then? We have been told to love people. All people. Even our enemies. You're right about that. But you see, part of loving you is to tell you uncomfortable truths. Part of loving you is to tell you things that will bother your conscience; things that may infuriate you and make you upset; but things which ultimately will save your life. Things that will liberate you from sin. Things that will bring you into relationship with the God who made you. Things that will ultimately bring healing and joy. Now you can still hate us for telling you these things and you may decide you want nothing to do with us thenceforth, but just don't be under any illusions about The One we represent. In those moments, we're often being much more Christlike than you think.
To get to know the real Jesus, click here to watch The War On Truth series.