The Christian faith can hold its own in the public arena of intellectual discussion. It is grounded in history and defensible on the basis of the facts of history, archaeology, linguistics, and other relevant disciplines. The one thing for which Christianity has no reasonable response is the inconsistent behavior of those of us who present ourselves as Christians.

Suppose I present a convincing logical argument to an unbeliever about, say, the plausibility of Christ's resurrection. Then suppose I cheat him out of several thousand dollars in a business deal. Which do you think will have the greater impact? My good argument? Or my unethical behavior?

A few days ago, it was announced that Christopher Hitchens is having to cut short a book tour because of a medical crisis. He has been diagnosed with esophageal cancer and will need to begin chemotherapy immediately.

In case you don't recognize the name immediately, Hitchens is the militant atheist who has debated a number of Christian apologists. His book "God Is Not Great" was a best-seller a few years back and created quite a stir. He writes with wit and sarcasm. Anger flashes at key points. He uses demeaning and insulting language of anyone who embraces the Christian faith.

A friend who doesn't share my view of Christianity sent me a news article about Hitchens' illness and hinted it would be interesting to follow the blog comments about it. Indeed! And what a wide range of responses began.

Several were from believers who expressed concern, offered hope for his recovery, and said they were praying for him. There were also comments of the sort I feared: "How apropos, losing the throat with which he used to blaspheme"; "this foul reprobate in the end, knowing he shall die, will beg for forgiveness"; and "I can't wait until the last little breath in his miserable body starts to fade, and then he will know if there is a God or not." Others were even worse!

If there ever was a time when people would separate facts and arguments from the people representing what they supported, they are long gone. In this post-modern era, the single most compelling evidence for or against a point of view is the lifestyle credibility of its advocates. People celebrating someone's cancer will never represent Jesus convincingly. Mean people don't win hearts.

If you have read Hitchens' insults to your faith and felt offended by his scorn for what you hold sacred, this would be a good time to remember Jesus' call to "turn the other cheek" or to "pray for those who despise you." The best "argument" for faith may not be an argument at all, but love and respect.

At the least, faith can never be a justification for behaving badly.

Faith can never be a justification for behaving badly.

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us (1 Peter 2:9-12 TNIV).