Dichotomy is a big word that means two parts that are opposed to each other. But it also means that they were once joined together—they were once in unity. Much like the first Christians: when people looked at them they saw Jesus; when they heard them speak they heard Jesus; when they watched their lives they saw the life of Jesus.
Christ and Christian were the same unified picture.
Today this is, sadly, far from the truth. People have a lot of wonderful things to say about Jesus, and a lot of nasty things to say about Christians. An unfortunate, and unnecessary, dichotomy exists.
I read an editorial from Ricky Gervais, a self-proclaimed atheist, entitled “Why I’m A Good Christian.” You can read his full editorial in the Wall Street Journal here, but for me this was the key passage:
I am of course not a good Christian in the sense that I believe that Jesus was half man, half God, but I do believe I am a good Christian compared to a lot of Christians.
It’s not that I don’t believe that the teachings of Jesus wouldn’t make this a better world if they were followed. It’s just that they are rarely followed.
Gandhi summed it up really. He said, “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”
I have always felt this way, even when I believed in God, and in a weird way I feel I am still a pretty good “Christian” who doesn’t believe in God.
I think the way back from this dichotomy is two-fold:
(1) Christ-followers need to make an intentional effort to act more Christ-like.
(2) We Christians need to be more thoughtful in our responses to people like Ricky Gervais. I like the pattern Peter recommends—
Honor Christ and let Him be the Lord of your life [our motivation for action]. Always be ready to give an answer when someone asks you about your hope [“hope,” not theology, not bad behavior]. Give a kind and respectful answer and keep your conscience clear [there is zero justification for a Christian to give a crass, disrespectful, or sarcastic answer]. This way you will make people ashamed for saying bad things about your good conduct as a follower of Christ [good conduct = we live, talk, and act like Jesus].