What Would Jesus Do?
The original question was posed in the late 1800s in a series of stories and subsequently, a novel written by minister Charles Sheldon, but the resurgence and the rebranding, if you will, started in the late 80s and early 90s with a youth group out of Holland, Michigan1.
I was in college at the peak of the movement. If you ran in any Christian circles at the time, you couldn’t miss it . . . the bracelets . . . t-shirts . . . bible studies . . . all circling around the question, “What would Jesus do?”
Such a great question to ask ourselves. How would Jesus handle this situation? What would He say or not say, as the case may be? How would He treat this person or these people? What choices would He make?
But then it morphed, from WWJD to . . . what would Jesus drive . . . wear . . . eat???
And what was meant to make Christians stop and think before speaking or acting, quickly became a joke. Jesus cares far more about our hearts than our cars, our clothes, our homes, or what we’re eating. He cares far more about our motives and our mindsets than our outward appearance. I keep circling back to Matthew 23 where Jesus calls the scribes and Pharisees “whitewashed tombs” (vs. 27-28). I keep asking myself if I look clean on the outside while I’m filthy on the inside.
The roots of the movement, the original intent, the actual question WWJD is one I think we need to revisit. We need to ask ourselves, not only, “What would Jesus do?” but “What did Jesus do?”. We need to crack our bibles and study our Savior . . . His actions . . . His words . . . you cannot determine Jesus’s course of action if you’re not willing to study His word, in its entirety.
Jesus had the ability to display deep grace, kindness, and gentleness toward sinners while never excusing the sin. He was firm yet caring. Unrelenting when it came to right and wrong yet accepting of the person behind the sin.
I feel the church is deeply confused and in many instances double minded when it comes to sin. We call out sins that offend us personally, but then laugh at others that don’t really ruffle our feathers. We respond with grace when it suits us but are filled with hatred and fueled by rage when it doesn’t. We excuse certain behaviors in ourselves and others . . . behaviors that are more covert and not as in your face . . . backbiting, hatred, meanness, jealousy, manipulation . . . all while losing our minds at the more overt behaviors of the world.
And I’m here to say, that is not who we are, and that is not who Jesus was or is.
What would Jesus do? What did Jesus do?
He never gave ground when it came to sin, we do seem to forget that and progressive Christianity does not want to acknowledge that, but He always called out sin from a place of deep love . . . from a desire to see people’s lives transformed. He didn’t go after sin for the sake of rules and regulations. He stood the ground against it . . . He went to the cross for it . . . He sacrificed His own life because He knew that if we continued to live in sin, without the covering of His blood, it would not only damage us but utterly destroy us.
If you read Matthew 23 in its entirety (which you should definitely do) you’ll see that Jesus calls the Pharisees and the scribes, the church people, “hypocrites” more than once. He does not go easy on them, but then He ends with these words . . .
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! See! Your house is left to you desolate, for I say to you, you shall see Me no more till you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!” Matthew 23:37-39
When I read those words, I can tangibly feel the deep burden Jesus carried for those around Him. Jesus’s motivation was always, is always, love for His children. He wants nothing more than for us to come to Him so He can love us, redeem us, heal us, and protect us. He was fully God and fully man, and His heart was broken at the sight of those rebelling against His father.
I look at a world around me, both in and out of the church, sometimes in my own life as well, that is going, pedal to the metal, full force toward pleasure seeking to the point of destruction . . . trying to fill the emptiness with anything . . . politics, news, social media, relationships, conspiracy theories, drugs, alcohol, money, fame, notoriety, gossip, success, thrills, even serving and ministry . . . some of it bad . . . some of it (very) good but twisted and misused . . . but none of it the one thing that will really bring contentment and peace . . . none of it will do what Jesus did for me and for you.
“Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.’ ” John 14:6
That’s it y’all. Those letters are written in red . . . the words of Jesus Himself. He is it . . . the only WAY. He didn’t come just to give us a ticket to heaven. He is the way, the truth, and the life for life on earth and eternity in heaven.
So I ask myself not only, “What would Jesus do?” but “What did Jesus do?” and then I acknowledge there is no way I can live this out in my own power. There is no way I can get this right without the help and enabling of the Holy Spirit, and I come back to the cross time and again to ask Him, not myself, but the One and only Way, “What is it that I am to do with this situation, in this world, and with my life?”
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