When I was a bit younger, there was a sort of craze in Christian circles for wearing rubber bracelets with the initials “WWJD” – or “What Would Jesus Do”. The idea was, I think, to provide a tangible challenge to yourself about your behaviour and decisions. When one found oneself in various situations, when question “What Would Jesus Do [in this situation]” would spring readily to your mind.
I think that some people took offence at the notion that we can either claim to know the mind of Jesus, or reduce him to a bangle. A sort of counter movement started, making it stand for “Why Would Jesus Die?”. This comes with the added benefit of bringing in an evangelism ‘opener’ (“What’s your bracelet”, “It stands for Why Would Jesus Die – let me tell you about it”). I confess I have difficulty with evangelism openers – my experiences of being on the receiving end “cold calling” or “intentional” evangelism have felt nothing but unpleasant and contrived (and this is as a Christian myself!!). Besides which, I think it’s far more meaningful and real for the conversation to run,
“What’s your bracelet?”
“It stands for ‘What Would Jesus Do'”
“Yeah – I know. It’s because I believe in Jesus and try and live the way he wants he me – and each time I have a difficult decision I think to myself “if Jesus was here, what would he do?””
“But didn’t Jesus die, like, a thousand years ago?”
… and so on..
The criticism regarding knowing the mind of God is more serious in my mind. We can’t know what Jesus would do in a given situation. Principally because I don’t believe he responds to situations or events – he responds to people. To recognise a situation as a parallel of one portrayed in the gospels, and therefore go “aha – this is what Jesus would do” is at best misguided and legalistic, and at worst dangerous. That said, I believe that God judges and honours our hearts, and a starting place for young Christians, setting Jesus up as your role model is not a bad start. Come to that, he is, of course, all our role model, which is partly where “WWJD” came from in the first place.
Further evidence of the know-ability (or otherwise) of Jesus comes from the disciples themselves. After nearly 3 years of being with him all the time, they still didn’t know him, and he still surprised and confused them with his actions. Given we only have a few score pages of his life, and not even then a biography, how we can lay any claim to know what he would do?
The reason I think we can has a number of facets:
- He was formed by the same scripture we have – i.e. what we call the Old Testament.
- We are being transformed into his likeness (2 Cor 3:18).
- We can have a relationship with him.
This last point is the clincher for me. I have been married for 12 years now, and I can fairly reliably predict how my wife will respond in certain situations. She often still surprises me, and she is a wonderful and interesting person, but I feel I know her pretty well. When she is away with the boys, I still run the house a certain way because she would want me to do it that way, rather than following my more natural inclinations (I’m thinking of things like drawing the curtains at night, doing the washing-up at least once a day – that kind of thing!!).
I think the same applies with Jesus. I have been walking with him and towards him for essentially all my life, to a greater or lesser degree. I made a conscious decision to be his when I was about 14, and became filled with the Holy Spirit when I was 20. Since the latter in particular I have been changing and drawing closer to God and – yes – got to know him a little bit. The question “What Would Jesus Do”, or alternatively “What Would Jesus want me to do” – which is largely the same question – is not too hard to answer. The difficulty is remembering to ask the question, and not just react and get drawn into the heat/minutiae of the situation.
Which brings up right back to the bracelets.. (see also my remember blog post from a couple of years ago).