I've often found in discussing Christianity with agnostics, atheists or just plain argumentatives - that when you can adequately answer or explain one of their objections, they change course and fire at you from a completely different angle. They attack the existence of God, you defend that, they jump to the authority of the Scriptures and claim a dubious alternative history of the book, you present evidence to the contrary, then suddenly Jesus never existed, he was made up by his followers, so you show them how history has more proof of his actual existence than they have of Julius Caesar or Alexander the Great; then they jump onto the one thing they can verbally gouge into, a definite soft spot: the integrity of Christians as a whole, their shortcomings, their failings, and a part history of bloodshed in the name of Christ.
Recently this has been raised again, very close to home as it were, when a friend of mine penned the most scathing and hostile words I have read in a long time. It was so intense, that if it had been said about a nationality, or if it was referring to someone's skin colour, it would certainly be hailed as hate speech. But, it is tolerated, because the guns were aimed at: Christians. Funnily enough, that fact alone speaks volumes. Not that I condone or agree with his attitude for one minute, but rather, that it demonstrates a very distinct point, one that I think has been missed.
Let's look at this. Set aside for now, the details of his argument. Let's look at what he has done:
He has severely publicly criticised and condemned Christians and Christianity. Now, take that simple thought, and apply it to other schools of thought. If, say, his raging were against another worldview, say the atheist communist philosophy.
What would be the outcome if he spoke so passionately against that ideology? If such a diatribe came from the heart of Vietnam, Laos, North Korea, Cuba, or the People's Republic of China - would the author continue to live, work and enjoy life as before they wrote the article? I would feel confident in saying that if he survived, it would probably be in some filthy prison somewhere.
Let's move over to Islam for a bit. What would happen, if his article was aimed at Islam within an Islam-run government. In most places, the punishment would be death. In Iran, for example, atheism and agnosticism are illegal.
But, in a predominantly Christian society (although how many are practicing is another story) - this author is pretty safe. Because, in dealing with individuals, we as Christians are told how to behave by our Master, Jesus Christ. See, Jesus said "by this men will know you're my disciples, by your love one for another" - so, that's pretty plain to see that Jesus Himself regards our actions and words as evidence for our following of Him, and not merely our proclamation as such.
So, while we swing our thoughts now to respond to the argument itself, we must present this: The teachings of Christ are plain as day. We are not to turn and eye for an eye, we are to forgive, to give, to bless rather than be blessed. If the church of Christ strays from this, and seeks to receive more than give, to be blessed more than to bless, or to seek vengeance instead of forgiving - then clearly, they are straying from what Christianity is all about. Because Christianity, is nothing more than following Jesus, in every way possible, taking His example, living by it, taking His Spirit, and walking in the love which He puts in our hearts. It is dependence on Him, on Jesus Christ - utter dependence. It's when this dependence loses footing that things go wrong, and then they can go very wrong.
They have gone wrong before, there are parts that aren't too right now - but I think that to condemn the whole thing either smacks of not understanding Christianity, or something more sinister. I would hope, in the case of my friend, that it is the former.
I could go on, but I think I've arrived at my point - look at the biblical standard of Christianity, defined by Christ, and you will get an image of where the church is meant to be, what the Christians are meant to be like. The degree us Christians fall short of this, is the degree the unbelieving world has something to argue with us. It's the degree the devil has something to accuse us of. In this respect, thank God we have another chance, right now, to bow our knee, seek mercy and forgiveness from the only one who shed His blood on our behalf, so that we can stand up again in newness, in His power, in truth, consumed by love, to show this world a taste of Jesus.
After all, the very reason we enter into discourse about this, is not to win an argument and show our intellectual prowess, no, it's simply, to show them Jesus.