Monday, February 17, 2014

a few thoughts on WWJD

Image from christianbracelets.com
I have never owned a What Would Jesus Do? bracelet and I probably never will. Don't get me wrong, I think the campaign has its merits, especially if it makes people more thoughtful in their decisions and encourages them to more closely align their lives with the life of Jesus. This was no doubt the intention of Charles M. Sheldon who penned the 1896 novel, In His Steps: What Would Jesus Do? and continues to be the objective of subsequent popularisers of the catchy phrase. But to me, the question seems odd. Let me give you an example. Dean has a great deal of knowledge in the area of business and finance, a lot more than I will ever have. However, when I am faced with a financial decision or need business advice, I never ask myself, "What would Dean do?" I just talk to him. I tell him about my situation and express my concerns and fears. We have a conversation about the various options and we work it through together. There is never a hypothetical question with a hypothetical answer.

WWJD strikes me as odd because the question is phrased in such a way that it seems like I am trying to estimate what a friend (or acquaintance) might do were he or she in my shoes even though they are not. In reality, it is a bit of a guessing game. I offer my best guess based on what I think they would likely do. It is not direct imitation of specific acts (in which case we would find WWJD proponents spending most of their time healing and feeding people, telling stories about the kingdom of God, and walking along dusty roads with a bunch of disciples). The question is hypothetical. And that is a big problem. I have never liked hypothetical questions and for the most part choose not to answer them. In most cases they have very little relevance to reality and involve a great deal of speculation based on incomplete information. In addition, they rarely move us to any real action or change.

Does this hypothetical question, WWJD, really reflect the way we are to follow Jesus? Is being a Christian basically making good, perhaps even educated guesses? I hope not. The more important question is this: is WWJD the way that Jesus himself instructed his followers to live? I don’t believe it is. In John 14 we find Jesus talking to his disciples about what will happen after he leaves. He says: "I will ask the Father to send you another Helper, the Spirit of truth, who will remain constantly with you. The world does not recognize the Spirit of truth, because it does not know the Spirit and is unable to receive Him. But you do know the Spirit because He lives with you, and He will dwell in you. ... The one who loves Me will do the things I have commanded. My Father loves everyone who loves Me; and I will love you and reveal My heart, will, and nature to you." (The Voice)

One of the major problems I have with WWJD is that it is a question we ask ourselves as if Jesus were not present. As if he had not given us the Spirit of truth to live in us and instruct us in all things. The Spirit of Jesus is here with us, so we can speak directly to our Lord.  Instead of asking, “What would Jesus do?” we can pray: Jesus, please show me where you are right now in this situation. Spirit of God, teach me how to lovingly participate in your action in this world. Father of love, who and what are you compelling me towards? How are you calling me to move away from pride and fear and step into humble identification with your life, death, and resurrection? How can I walk in faith, hope, and love this day, this moment, right now? What do we do now, Jesus?  

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