Gandhi used to read the Bible daily. He highly admired Jesus and tried to follow His teachings. One day, he was asked why, if he liked Jesus so much, he didn’t become a Christian. Gandhi’s answer was simple: “Christians.”
When he was studying in Great Britain, he got to know many people who claimed to be Christians, but were that in name only. They didn’t live as Christ lived. I don’t know all the things he saw them doing, but it was enough to make him not want to be a Christian.
To be honest, I’ve never liked his answer. It’s not just that it’s an indictment of how Christians act. That’s a topic for another time. It’s the logical fallacy of the statement, which is, in essence: If these people believe this thing and act the way they do, then the thing they believe in or purportedly believe in must be false.
I’ve heard this argument from others, often on the CNN forums on religious articles I sometimes visit. It usually goes something like, “The Crusaders were Christians. So were the Spaniards who ravaged and enslaved Latin America,” along with other examples. I’m not going to defend what these people did; some of it was reprehensible and done under the guise of Christianity, but without the spirit of Christianity.
That said, other people’s actions don’t mean Jesus was wrong in what He preached. It doesn’t mean He’s not worth following or that He has no power to change your life. All it means is that these people, for whatever reason, have either been severely misled or have chosen to use the guise of Christianity for their own ends. Neither of those makes Him less powerful or less worthy of our service. It simply makes those people poor ambassadors.
The other side of the argument is that there are people of every major religion who have been murderers or terrorists. Stalin and Mao were atheists and killed millions of their own countrymen. By this logic, atheism is wrong because some people who were atheists were mass murderers. The Thugee cult in India is the most famous assassin’s guild in the world. And, of course, there are Islamic extremists who blow themselves up in the name of their religion.
What people do has no bearing on either God’s existence or His goodness. Imagine you got a kitten and tried to train it. Rather than behaving, the kitten never uses the litter box, hisses and scratches at you when you get near, and bites the neighborhood children when she gets out. Then your neighbors decide that you must either not exist or not be a very good person because your cat is awful.
Also, if we flip the argument over, then a person doing good logically means the reason they’re doing the good is correct. Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, and atheists can all give to the poor, be kind to children, be fair and just, etc. It doesn’t mean all these religions are true, just that their adherents are trying to live out their values the best way they know how.
Now, it’s true that Christians ought to live like Jesus did. We ought to love our neighbors, not judge others, and have peace through our trials. All that’s true. Whether we live up to our end of the bargain or not, though, He has lived up to His end.