What is Christianity?


The young college student interrupted an Ethics class lecture to ask, “Just what is Christianity, anyway?” Taken back for a moment, the professor replied, “It is a way of life. Christians believe in and follow Jesus Christ. They love others. They forgive when they are wronged. They—”

“No! That is not what I asked,” the young man said, “Always when I ask that question people start telling me what the Christian faith does. That is not what I want to know. I want to know what Christianity is.”

Later, that professor, Dr. William DeWitt Hyde, responded to that question. This is what he wrote:

1. “In the home—it is kindness.” Someone has said that the best part of a good man’s life is his little, nameless, unremembered acts of kindness. It is a language that everyone understands. Ella Wheeler Wilcox said it in these words: “So many gods, so many creeds, So many paths that wind and wind; When just the art of being kind, Is all this sad world needs.”

2. “In business—it is honesty.” Dishonesty is a form of stealing. In a recent play one of the characters pleads with her husband, “Whatever else, be honest. That is the least you can do!” That is basic for all of us. Let us, at least, be honest.

3. “In society—it is courtesy.” Life is fleeting and short at best, but there is always time to be courteous. Little courtesies along the way sweeten life; the greater courtesies ennoble it. It costs nothing and pays great dividends to the one who gives and to the one who receives. It, too, is twice blessed.

4. “Toward the fortunate—it is congratulation.” We nearly always remember to comfort those whose hearts are heavy, but how often we forget to congratulate those who are glad.

5. “Toward the unfortunate— it is appreciation.” In their hour of failure, we can turn another’s world around by letting him know that someone still believes in him.

6. “Toward the wicked—it is resistance to their deeds and love for their souls.” Driving through the streets of East London years ago, a woman viewing the ragamuffins in the street, asked, “Why in the world doesn’t someone clean them up?” Her chauffeur answered, “No one cares enough in the right way. You hate the dirt, but you don’t love them. Their mothers love them, but they don’t hate the dirt.”

7. “Toward God—it is reverence, obedience, and love.” Jesus said it in these words from the Old Testament: “You shall love God with all your heart, and your neighbor as yourself.”

Christianity is something that is believed. It is something that is done. But first of all, it is. Rev. Nichols is Minister Emeritus of First Christian Church, Temple, where he was senior minister for 23 years before retiring. He writes a religious column for several newspapers.

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2011-09-15 digital edition

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