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FAQ#6: Haven't Christians been responsible for a lot of violence and hatred throughout history?
The obvious answer to this question is: absolutely. Without question, people calling themselves Christians have participated in acts of murder, torture, persecution, bigotry, immorality, and much more. The Crusades and the Spanish Inquisition are two notable examples, and many others could be produced with little effort. So Christianity can't really be true, right?
Well, not so fast. Although this distinction can be difficult to maintain, it is critical to understand that we are called to be followers of Jesus Christ, not of the Christian religion, the Church, or any individual believers. Therefore, in determining if Christianity is valid, one must look to Jesus himself to see if he is worthy of being followed as Lord and Savior. The fact that many who use Christ's name have failed to imitate his life and teachings is very disturbing, but not a legitimate indictment of Jesus or his message.
Also, we are all aware of the human tendency to emphasize the negative (watch any evening news broadcast to see evidence of this). Violence and prejudice make for good copy, while hospitals, orphanages, soup kitchens, and prison ministries generate little interest. Yet, the latter have characterized the lives of run-of-the-mill Christians much more than the former. From the earliest days of the faith, Christians have won others over more by compassion and service than the use of force. In describing the first three centuries of Christianity, historian Adolph Harnack writes:
The excellence of the church's charitable system, the deep impression made by it, and the numbers that it won over to the faith, find their best voucher in the action of Julian the Apostate, who attempted an exact reproduction of it in that artificial creation of his, the pagan State-church, in order to deprive Christians of this very weapon. The imitation, of course, had no success.
The true weapon of Christianity has always been love, not violence. May God forgive us for forgetting this too often.Are you ready to receive the love of Christ?