CEF Canada Board Member Rob Lukings
Many years ago, I read the novel “In His Steps”, by Charles Sheldon. It’s the book that gave birth to the question “what would Jesus do?”. I remember being very impressed at the time by the message of the book. I thought the challenge was profound.
A couple decades later, I heard about a youth pastor in the United States who picked up on the message of “In His Steps”. Just like the pastor in the book, he challenged the kids in his youth group to pause in every situation, ask “what would Jesus do”, and use the answer as the guiding principle for living.
Somehow the idea exploded way beyond that individual youth group. Soon the letters WWJD began to appear just about everywhere, on tshirts and wristbands and jewelry and coffee mugs. Then as often happens when a “movement” becomes widespread, after a while, it began to lose it’s impact. “What would Jesus do?” became a cliche rather than something to be taken seriously. Even worse it turned into the butt of jokes and widespread mockery. What a tragedy! Overuse, misuse, and abuse turned what I believe to be one of the most profound and inspiring messages to ever come from a work of Christian fiction into a joke.
In spite of all that I am finding lately that “what would Jesus do?” is showing up pretty frequently in my teaching and preaching. Admittedly it’s a bit harder than it once was to get people to consider the question with all the seriousness it deserves. But even so, I’m more convinced than ever that those few words can have a tremendous and profound impact on our lives.
Lots of people have questions about what the Christian life is supposed to look like. At one time in evangelical circles, we had an unwritten list of do’s and don’ts to answer those questions. Thankfully, these days many of the things on that list have gone by the boards, but that and a rapidly changing world have left some uncertainty about what’s right in terms of behaviour, attitudes, tolerance, even politics. If there was ever a time when we needed clarification and guidance on what God expects of us in our daily living, it’s now.
Fortunately, just about every one of us has the answers at our fingertips. We have what is essentially a user manual for Christian living. It’s a clear guide for what our priorities should be, how we should act, and especially how we are supposed to treat other people. That manual is the description of the life and teaching of Jesus found in the Gospels.
It’s actually a lot easier to understand than most instruction manuals. That’s because instead of just giving us a set of instructions, God showed us what He wanted – through the life of Jesus. When we read the Gospels, we hear what Jesus taught, and then we see it lived out through His example. Through His words and life, we see what was important to Him. We see how He related to people in all kinds of circumstances. We see how He dealt with fears and temptations. We see how He responded when the people he treated with only love and kindness turned on him and rejected Him. It’s all right there for us in four easy-to-read books. And if you think that’s still a lot of words to read, the three-chapter synopsis is found in Matthew 5 – 7, what we call the sermon on the mount.
We get a lot of benefits from the fact that Jesus became a man. One of them is we get to see what the Christian life is supposed to look like.
Of course, in our modern world, we sometimes encounter situations and decisions different from what Jesus faced. While it’s sometimes obvious what Jesus would do, at other times it takes a little more prayer and contemplation. But through His words and life Jesus taught us such a wide range of principles, giving us the tools, we need regardless of the circumstance. So, what if I’m really struggling knowing what Jesus would do in my situation? If that’s the case, I might ask myself if the reason I’m struggling is that my own preferences are getting in the way. If we have an honest heart, discerning what Jesus would do is often the easy part. The hard part is putting my excuses aside and accepting it, even if it’s not the answer I want.
In the book “In His Steps” the pastor challenged people in his congregation to join him in a one-year commitment. For that year each person individually would not make any decision without first seriously asking themselves what Jesus would do, and then doing it no matter what. It takes a lot of courage to make a commitment like that. But then, wouldn’t it pretty much ensure that our Christian lives would become more and more what God wants them to be? Maybe it’s worth it.
CEF Canada Board Member