According to Wikipedia: The phrase “what would Jesus do? (often abbreviated to WWJD) became popular in the United States in the 1990s and as a personal motto for adherents of Evangelical Christianity who used the phrase as a reminder of their belief in a moral imperative to act in a manner that would demonstrate the love of Jesus through the actions of the adherents. In popular consciousness, the acronym signifying the question—WWJD—is associated with a type of wristband which became a popular accessory for members of Christian youth groups in the 1990s“.
Personally, I am not a big fan of populist youth culture linked to US evangelicalism, but the question is a pertinent one, especially at this time when I find myself in hot water over and having to soul search concerning many matters. While there are many times I would like to know WWJD, besides the assorted mundane matters like what clothes to wear after I wake up, when asking such a question seems hardly pertinent, there are lots of times when it would be helpful to know. Of late there have been certain religious related “hot” topics like Israel and Palestine, gay marriage, women priests, and political related ones like which party to support, the NHS, welfare reform, I have had to deal with. Often I take a view and may act accordingly but often I draw a blank in trying to come to a view. I realize many friends may ask the WWJD question and come to a different view. A similar conundrum applies when I survey the plethora of complex needs around me, and ask which do I address, how, with who etc. Last night, for example, while managing a homeless night shelter, I had to decide whether or not to evict a disruptive but vulnerable guest. All this doesn’t stop me trying to find answers and wanting to do the right thing and, while there are certain principles like praying, reading the Bible, common sense, asking advice etc. I need to abide by, often I can’t be fully sure what is the right response. Jesus’ kingdom is not of this world but even so, as his servant, I need to act in the right way here on earth and ask WWJD?
I was intrigued to come across the following report today: “State must back food banks, says Welby: Archbishop of Canterbury steps into austerity row with radical report“, which sparked of a mini debate. One was whether this was a matter for the State to get involved in in the first place and another was to what extent this is an issue and how best to resolve it. While the Archbishop did not have the temerity of saying this is something Jesus would demand, he clearly based his opinions on his understanding of Jesus character and what God e.g. through the Bible says about matters to do with poverty and social justice. I ruefully reflected when I became a Christian as a teen, having earlier taken a shine to radical, left wing politics, that the Christians I linked with in those early days tended not only to be conservative theologically but Conservative politically as well, arguing such things like individual freedom and personal and national security came before things like State intervention, even if in the interest of most people, and increasing taxes to fund welfare programs, only to discover later those with more liberal theological leanings saw such things as more important and were motivated by “Liberation Theology” and “Christian Socialism” etc. (On that note, it occurred to me Jesus said very little about political involvement other than rendering unto Caesar (a despot) the things that are Caesar’s.) I can also think of a large number of theological and political related issues and reflect these days who supports what and what their particular perspective is, is complex (theologically and politically) and unpredictable. I know in many cases there are big differences, but the WWJD question remains important and often it comes down to doing the right thing.
So let me emphasise, while the question is an important one, the person Jesus would have me be, so I can begin to respond to the many challenges I face every day, where I need to make a decision, one way or another, is maybe an even more pressing one. For those who aren’t Christians and are tempted to or do pontificate on WWJD on different matters, maybe suggesting a political party or religious principle they think Jesus would have supported, I would say respectfully it is more important to be on His side than expect Him to be on yours, and that he requires you first to repent of your sins and follow Him. Also, sometimes we have to admit we don’t have many of the answers because we don’t have the big picture. We must act in accordance with the light we have and what we have been given to do. As my pastor said in his sermon today, based on Matthew 25, looking at the parables of the wise and foolish virgins, the talents and the sheep and the goats, we need to be watching, waiting and working toward Jesus return. This is a particularly pertinent message given this is the Advent season, when we look forward to the Second Coming of Jesus, preceding Christmas, when we look back to when the Saviour of the world was born.
But here are some of the things I believe Jesus would do (and be) and as His followers we should do/be too:
- Live in obedience to God’s word
- Be humble and kind
- Be wise and discerning
- Seek first God’s kingdom
- Follow truth, justice and righteousness
- Practice love, grace and mercy
- Look out for the poor and needy
- Live in peace, if possible, with one’s neighbour
- Pray to God and study His word
- Remember we are God’s servants and unprofitable ones at that
- Do good when it is in our power to do so