Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of January 12, 2004
Ask yourself, 'What would Jesus do?'
When I stopped in Field to stretch my legs during an almost 12-hour trip from Edmonton to Merritt B.C. during the holidays, I became interested in a tiny gift shop.
What intrigued me about the shop? I wanted to know what a shop like this - in the middle of the mountains - has to offer tourists and other travellers.
There was a whole bunch of items such as stuffed toys, letter openers, figurines, postcards, fridge magnets, most of them with the Canadian maple leaf. Gift shops carry these items because tourists from other countries like to buy something with an identifying Canadian mark.
But what really caught my attention were wristbands with the familiar four-letter acronym WWJD that means, "What would Jesus do?"
Young Christians involved in their Church communities would easily notice this four-letter question. That is because it has become a Christian merchandising craze with WWJd imprinted on a variety of products.
When I walked into a church supply store I thought to myself, "If I were going to buy one of these products which would it be? Should I buy the WWJD bumper sticker or the WWJD key chain or the WWJD T-shirt or the WWJD sweatshirt or the WWJD necklace or the WWJD bracelet?
Which one should I buy? Hmmm! I wonder . . .what would Jesus do?"
WWJD has a radical history. In 1897 the Rev. Charles Sheldon of a congregational church in Topeka, Kansas, wrote a book called In His Steps or What Would Jesus Do? It was a fictional story about a minister named Henry Maxwell serving a church in a town called Raymond.
In the story, Maxwell overhears a labour organizer criticizing the Church. The organizer says it is hopeless to look to the Church for the reform and redemption of society. The Church is too complacent about the status quo. Members of the Church are more concerned about their personal ease and comfort than they are about the suffering needs of humanity.
This comment gets Maxwell to thinking and so he preaches a sermon to his congregation.
Obviously, the phrase "What Would Jesus Do?" was meant to be more than a catchy slogan to print on a T-shirt, bumper sticker or a bracelet. It is a question meant to help people make more ethical decisions and lead more spiritual lives.
But then can we really offer an answer to this question? Can we really know what Jesus would do? As the Bible tells us, those who lived and witnessed the life of Jesus often were surprised with how Jesus approached different situations (cf. Mark 12:15ff; John 8:1-12). They didn't know what Jesus would do.
With the noble purpose of using this slogan as a moral and spiritual guide, some have become too familiar with this question and made it their Christian life's principle.
An environmental group even came up with the question "What would Jesus drive?" which led to some SUV lovers to argue, "Jesus would drive an SUV."
Other people of course tried to come up with answers that are somehow funny but can possibly offend some people's Christian sensibilities.
If one is not careful with how this question is applied to one's life, this could be reduced to a plain, rhetorical and meaningless principle. Another thing is to avoid falling into the arrogance of claiming we know what Jesus would do, because we don't.
We can only speculate. But our speculations have a better chance if we approach them by knowing first the answer to the question, "What did Jesus do?"
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