There’s a damaging misconception that’s hidden within a common critique of Christianity. The critique is one that’s consistently articulated against Christian culture. In the words of Mahatma Gandhi, “I believe in the teachings of Christ, but you on the other side of the world do not, I read the Bible faithfully and see little in Christendom that those who profess faith pretend to see.”
The distinction between Christendom and Christ—the differences between the culture and institutions of the faith and the teachings of the savior himself—have been eloquently argued for generations. I’ve been influenced by Søren Kierkegaard’s searing Attack on Christendom, which dates back to the mid-19th century, and even that is a recent critique by the standards of an ancient faith.
The gap between Christendom and Christ is sometimes vast, always grievous, and will persist to some degree throughout the entire life of the church. Fallen people will never be truly “like Christ” so long as we inhabit this earth. But hidden within that truth is a misconception—one that’s often extrapolated from a different Gandhi quote, “I like your Christ, but not your Christianity.”
I’ve heard a version of this comment my entire life. We like Jesus, but we don’t like you. Why? Because you’re not like him. Setting aside the obvious fact that I’ll never be all that much like Christ, is it really true that Christianity would be more popular if its followers were more like Christ?