WWJD–Coronavirus edition

What Would Jesus Do? This question, shortened to the acronym WWJD, appeared as a fad on bracelets, t-shirts, billboards, etc., a few years ago. The idea was to ask oneself how Jesus Christ would act or react in various situations.

While I don’t disagree with the premise, I have never been a fan of this trend– mostly because it calls for people to speculate or imagine what Jesus would or might have done in their place. There is nothing wrong with wanting to act like Jesus– that’s what we’re supposed to do–to be disciples of Christ, and be His ambassadors. But our minds and hearts are not perfect; in fact they can be deceitful and arrogant, self-righteous and self-justifying. It is more common for us to justify how Jesus would act like us, than for us to adjust our thoughts and actions to those we know Jesus took during His time on earth. Would Jesus be angry about injustice– of course! Would He want us to have empathy for others– undoubtedly! But what would He actually DO? There are some pretty clear examples in the Bible– both examples of what Jesus DID, and what He DID NOT do:

  • Jesus drank wine; He visited and ate with known sinners; healed on the Sabbath (in direct violation of the church leaders of His day); interacted with the Romans (soldiers and leaders, etc.)who were oppressing the Jews– without protesting their rule or joining rebel groups; healed and performed miracles for some, but not for others; forgave sins for some, but not for others; paid His taxes without complaint; challenged religious leaders and spoke harshly against their practices; refused to get drawn into condemning and stoning a guilty adultress….
  • Jesus prayed. He want to temple regularly; read and studied God’s word; He rested, meditated, and spent time alone; He listened to strangers and treated those He met with compassion and respect; He honored His mother, but did not put her above His work; He loved his friends, even those who did not understand Him and the one who betrayed Him; He did not flatter those in power or disdain those in lowly positions; He cared deeply, wept unashamedly, and laughed heartily…
  • Jesus did not own a home. He didn’t have a “regular” job; He had no savings account or retirement fund; He had no donkey or horse for transportation; He wasn’t a member of a particular congregation or church council, like the Pharisees. Jesus didn’t have a university education; He didn’t run for public office; He never got “employee of the month;” He never married or had kids; We have no evidence that He ever gave to a particular charity, or joined any activist group. Jesus never hosted a barbecue, or led an evangelistic gathering, like His cousin, John the Baptist…
  • Jesus never addressed many of the issues we deal with today– civil rights, gay rights, abortion, health care, income inequality, democracy/socialism, smoking, drug use, pornography, violence in the media, global climate change, speed limits on highways, income tax structure, campaign finance reform, gender dysphoria, unisex bathrooms, vegans vs. meat eaters…

But the point of Jesus’ ministry on earth was to preach the coming of the “Kingdom of God,” and to fulfill His promise to go to the cross, die for our sins, and to rise again on the third day. He spent time teaching and discipling twelve very different individuals, who saw and did things very differently from each other, and differently from Jesus himself. Peter was fiery, John was a quiet observer, James was stern and concerned about actions, Matthew was concerned with history and prophecy. And all of them were loved by and commissioned by Jesus to spread the Gospel.

In these days of COVID-19, faced with fear and panic, many Christians (myself included) are struggling with the “right” response–we all want to show the love of God, and honor Him above all. In doing so, however, I find myself spending a lot of time justifying my own actions, and condemning the words and actions of others. And I find myself getting hurt and angry when someone I know and love reacts differently, uses different words or tones, or gets caught up in arguments about what “we must do.”

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We MUST seek God’s wisdom in these times. And we MUST listen to and obey His word. But beyond that, I believe that God wants us to be very different “parts of the body” (see 1 Corinthians 12) https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1+Corinthians+12&version=ESV And I believe that God wants us to work together, honoring the various gifts and personalities that we have been given. Some of us are going to be fiery in our defense of health care workers, and advocating for the best and fastest medical care and treatments available. Some of us are going to be spreading small words and acts of encouragement wherever we see the opportunity. Some of us are going to be standing up against threats of corruption and injustice lurking among the actions of those in power. Some of us are going to speak boldly about our Hope in Christ, evangelizing and calling people to repentance. Some are going to be “standing in the gap” in prayer and counseling. Some are going to be providing money, food, PPE (personal protective equipment), and other services. And we must honor the other members of the body– in whatever role they take on– and seek unity, rather than division.

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Instead of blasting each other on Facebook or angry e-mails, we need to bring our initial reactions– anger, disappointment, hurt, confusion– to God. HE is the one who will judge our actions and motives in the end. Unless we see Christians who are flagrantly violating God’s laws– looting, cheating, spreading malicious lies and causing division, cursing God and/or misrepresenting Him in heretical fashion–we should ask, not just what Jesus would/might do in my situation, but what DID Jesus do in my place.

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Because He died for me when I was still a sinner. He sacrificed His life. Not because I had done anything “right,” or “good enough.” He didn’t keep a list of all the things I got “wrong.” He did not bring condemnation– He brought forgiveness, mercy, and hope! And His mercies are new every morning. If I “get it wrong,” if I do something, or don’t do something–because I am still human and I don’t know everything about COVID-19 or the global economy or what tomorrow will bring–God will still love me. God will forgive me.

My prayer is that I will do the same for others– that I will extend Grace, and true encouragement (rather than flattery or mutual congratulation), and Love, because I know without a shadow of doubt or speculation, that this is What Jesus Would Do.

What Would Jesus Pray?

Several years ago, it became incredibly fashionable (literally) to wear t-shirts, necklaces, and especially bracelets with the four letters, WWJD– which stood for “What Would Jesus Do?”  This was supposed to serve as a reminder that the wearer was an ambassador of the Kingdom of God, and was supposed to be a follower of Jesus, and thus should act in accordance with what Jesus would do in any given situation.  Stuck in traffic–What would Jesus do?  Presumably, we would not lose his temper, honk and scream obscenities, or rudely try to cut or push others off the road.  Tempted by the scantily clad actors and actresses in a new R-rated movie– What would Jesus do?  Presumably, he would not attend R-rated movies filled with sexual situations in the first place, or, finding himself tempted, he would leave the movie.

I think the intention was good in the beginning– even scriptural in a sense.  The Children of Israel were commanded, in Deuteronomy 6: 8 to “tie them (God’s commandments, laws, and decrees) as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.  Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates.”  Throughout the Bible, the patriarchs, prophets, Jesus, and the apostles, often spoke of keeping God’s Word in our hearts and on our minds as we go through our daily routines.  This short reminder should help us do just that– redirect our thoughts to the One we are to follow.  As far as it achieved that goal, it was a good thing.

The problem is that it didn’t work that way for most people.  The jewelry or the t-shirt didn’t serve as a reminder to the wearer, but as a symbol to everyone else.  “Hey, look at me!  I’m wearing a fashionable accessory with a cryptic message that lets you know that my thoughts and actions represent Jesus here on earth!”  Ironically, Jesus would have been the last person to wear such an item– not only because he wouldn’t have to ask the question (BEING Jesus, and all), but because his focus was on others–Jesus didn’t wear his heart on his sleeve, or his wrist, and he didn’t call attention to his own righteousness.  Instead, he spoke to outcasts, and touched lepers.  He acted in accordance with God’s wishes, not because he had decided what he thought God would want him to do, but because he knew who God wanted him to become.

One of the worst casualties of the WWJD craze is that many people substituted their own wisdom for a study of God’s word– in other words, they imagined what Jesus would (or might) have done, instead of learning and following what he DID.  Of course, Jesus was never stuck in a traffic jam.  But he did face demands on his time, and stressful situations.  He was never tempted by movies or internet porn, but he was surrounded by a culture that had “religious”  “temple” prostitutes, along with sexual immorality not that different from what we see today.  The Bible doesn’t give us a picture of Jesus planning and executing a strategy for specific temptations– it DOES give us specific examples of people over a long period of time who failed or triumphed over temptations, big and small, and of people who turned to God for strength to overcome temptation and grace when they had fallen.  It also gives us a picture of Jesus living a life that was perfectly pleasing to God– including a life of prayer.

What would Jesus pray?  Look at John 17.  Look at Luke 11:1-4 or Luke 22: 39-48.  Look at Mark 14: 32-42.  There are many examples of Jesus’ prayers– prayers that pour out his heart to his Father– in faith, in pain, in grief, and in hope.  In fact, it would be appropriate to say in answer to the question, “What would Jesus do?”– Jesus would take it to God in Prayer!

Jesus didn’t come to earth and live his life to make us great, or successful, powerful or popular by the world’s standards.  He came to seek and to save those who were lost.  He asks us to do the same– not in our own strength or success, but in the overflow of the grace and power he has poured into us.  T-shirts and jewelry are nice, but Jesus used his life–his time, his love, his talents, his words and his actions in accordance with God’s will and God’s wise commands to bring people to himself.  Then he did what none of us could do– he fulfilled God’s law, becoming the perfect sacrifice for our sins, and conquering Sin and death.  What would Jesus do?  He DID IT!  It is FINISHED!  Our part is not to do what only God can do, but to what he has asked of us and trust him to do the rest.

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This is also true in our pursuit of prayer.  I often get side-tracked in wondering if my prayers match up to what Jesus might have prayed in the same situation– and that shouldn’t be my immediate focus.  Prayer is, as I have to keep reminding myself, a pursuit.  It is a process and a journey, and an ongoing, deepening conversation with the one who loves me best.  And it is not a one-sided conversation– God answers my prayers, not just by meeting immediate needs or changing circumstances.  He speaks through his law, through the Psalms and prophets, through the Gospels and the Epistles, and through the godly wisdom of friends and counselors and ministers of his Grace.  And in doing so, he teaches me to pray.

May I stop worrying so much about the length or the style or the “worthiness” of my prayers.  May I instead listen, and learn, and continue the pursuit.

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