Once upon a time I had a WWJD bracelet. Seems like most of the world did, in fact.
The story goes that a youth group leader in Holland, Michigan, started a grass roots movement to help her teenagers remember the phrase. The movement exploded in the 90’s, and everyone, including me, jumped on the bandwagon. And of course, as always happens, the enthusiasm turned to mockery, and those who were wearing the bracelets started ripping them off claiming, among other things, that it’s not so much what Jesus would do, but what Jesus did that really matters.
I can’t speak for everyone who turned tail on the bracelet, only myself, but for myself I can say that my criticism of such things happened during the height of my personal theological arrogance. And so here I am again, 20 years and hopefully a little more grown up, actually asking the question again and again.
It matters, of course, what Jesus did; and what He did was die on the cross and rise again. That living Christ lives inside every Christian in the Holy Spirit, but that indwelling presence isn’t just there for convenience. He’s there for our own transformation.
In other words, what Jesus did compels us to ask what would Jesus do, and then to follow Him. As parents, as employees, as employees, as citizens with a voting ballot in our hands, as friends – we must be asking this question, for it’s God’s will for all of us, regardless of what station of life we find ourselves in, to be conformed to the image of Jesus.
But this is where complexity rears its ugly head, for though it’s a simple question to ask, it’s not always a simple answer to diagnose. That’s because Jesus did a lot of different things in a lot of different situations. Sometimes He was angry; sometimes He wasn’t. Sometimes He healed; sometimes He didn’t. Sometimes He spoke and sometimes He was silent. When you start asking the question of what would Jesus do in a particular situation, then, it’s not always easy to find a definitive answer.
You can, though, I think say some general things about the actions of Jesus, and therefore there are at least three simple things you can always do in any situation if you want to act like Jesus:
1. Tell the truth.
This is harder than it sounds, isn’t it? But if you want to act like Jesus, you can always tell the truth. Whether confronting the Pharisees, challenging the Samaritan woman, or reinstating the fallen disciple Peter, Jesus told the truth. Of course, the temptation for us to convince ourselves that sometimes the most loving thing we can do, and in so doing be like Jesus, is to bend the truth ever so slightly so as to not offend. But wounds from a friend can be trusted (Prov. 27:6), and Jesus is indeed our friend.
If we want to act like Jesus, we must be committed to the difficult work of truth-telling in any situation.
2. Be compassionate.
Truth can be used like a soothing salve or a jackhammer. And it takes a great deal of wisdom to know the appropriateness of each. Jesus had such wisdom, and He is not afraid to break the stoney hearts with the hammer of God’s truth, and He is also not afraid to bend low and apply that same truth to the hurting sinner. But in either case, He acted with compassion.
Even His most difficult teaching, even His most biting criticism, even His most heated arguments, were made compassionately. Towards the unbelieving Jews and the Pharisees, whom He warned of the coming judgment, He still cried out from the cross for the Father to forgive them, for they did not know what they were doing.
If we want to act like Jesus, we can always make the choice of compassion.
3. Give of yourself.
Finally, we can make the choice to give of ourselves in any situation. Sometimes that means taking the 5 extra minutes to listen to a badly put together story from one of your children who is convinced the most important thing in the world has happened. Other times it means getting in the car to go to the home of someone who has just lost a person dear to them. Still other times it means giving of your resources so that someone else can have their needs met. In any case, though, we can always make the choice to give of ourselves. We can always make the choice to make our attitudes like that of Jesus, who though He is God, did not cling tightly to that position, but instead gave of Himself fully and completely for our sake (Phil. 2:1-11).
True enough, situations in our world are complex. But there some things that can cut through the complexity – some things you can always do, by the power of and the motivation from the gospel which is transforming us into the likeness of Christ. So don’t just stand there today. Act like Jesus.