Charles Sheldon’s book “In His Steps”, published first in 1896, has sold more than 30 million copies and has been read, quoted, and highlighted as many times as any other book in history.
From the story of this classic book, we have used the acrostic WWJD as a challenge for living and lifestyle for many years. One of my favorite golfers, the late Payne Stewart, is well known for wearing the wristband with WWJD inscribed. Certainly, these letters which, we all know, stands for “What would Jesus do” can serve as a guiding light – ONLY if we know the historical and Biblical Jesus. But, it seems to me, there is the ‘rub.’
The modern day concept of Jesus seems to be markedly different from the Jesus found in the gospels. According to modern culture, Jesus ‘kind of ‘ lives and let live and offers ‘suggestions’ for life instead of guidelines for time and eternity. I have often said that the modern culture seems to see our Lord as a cross between our kind grand-pa and the Easter bunny and Santa Claus. To apply the “what would Jesus do” when this is your concept of Jesus is problematic at best and disastrous at worst.
The alternative could be to change our concept from “WWJD – What would Jesus Do” to “WDJD – What DID Jesus do.” We have four inspired accounts for the life of Jesus bound up in the gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) to gain a clear understanding of “WHAT” He did. Take a look at a couple of truths.
When people say Jesus “was never judgmental and just loved people whoever they were, whatever they did, and never really took issue with behavior like those who claim to be Christians today do” they could not be further from the truth. It is true that Jesus loved ALL people. In fact, He loved all people so much that HE took the nails, the cross, the beating, and the abuse ultimately dying the death of a sinner, taking the place of those people (us) that He loved.
However in His life, Jesus never overlooked sin but rather dealt with both firmly and in His love. Jesus loves people too much to leave them like He finds them because He knows, left to our own, we are friends with the world and, as the scriptures say, ‘enemies with God.’ To the woman at the well He, lovingly but firmly, confronted He with her sin. To the woman caught in adultery, lovingly but firmly, He told her to “sin no more.”
It was only to the Sanhedrin, those religious people who were self-righteous, that He seemed to lose His cool in confronting their hypocrisy. Jesus has little patience for those who ‘look down their religious noses at those who are not like ‘me’.’ Jesus’ compassion for the multitude and love for each individual challenges the best in us.
While there are those who could ‘call me out’ for saying Jesus lost His cool, when I read the words of Jesus to those religious leaders, it speaks to me of one who was a bit tired of their ‘religiosity’!! To their faces He call them, “Blind fools, Blind guides, Hypocrites, White Washed tombs, and more.” A person, even the earthly Jesus, has to be pretty frustrated to speak like this. Yet I believe, there was enough of His grace available to reach out to these religious leaders, to all lost people, and even to Judas.
In other words, Jesus spoke the truth in love. Today we seem to an abundance of two types of people. There are those who love to “Speak the Truth” and let the axe fall where it may AND we have those who like to “Speak with Love” in which they affirm whatever someone desires to do, kind of a ‘live and let live’ philosophy. By the way, it seems to me that either of these philosophies border on abuse.
To speak the truth without love or to offer love without truth can both be mean and certainly not like Jesus. What Jesus did and does is always balance ‘truth (never compromised) and love (never short-changed). This is our call, it is our challenge, and it is our mandate.
Let’s make it our goal, to follow WDJD because we have studied the life of Jesus and clearly understand WWJD. Amen.