This Sunday at 9:40 am in Leonard Memorial Chapel and 11:00 am in the Sanctuary we will face one of Jesus’ tough questions: “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord’ and don’t do what I say?” (Luke 6:46) This is the next question in my series entitled “Questions We Should Answer.”
Back in the 1990s a lot of people were wearing bracelets and necklaces and displaying bumper stickers that said WWJD — which stood for the question, “What would Jesus do?” This certainly is a good question, but not a new one. Christians throughout the centuries have sometimes asked that question when facing a decision about the right thing to do.
That question got a lot of attention in 1896 and the years following with the publication of Charles Sheldon’s novel “In His Steps,” the subtitle of which was “What Would Jesus Do?” The novel became immensely popular and by 1935 it had been translated into 21 languages. I read the novel as a youth, along with others in the youth group in my church. In the novel Rev. Henry Maxwell encounters a homeless man who challenges him to take seriously the imitation of Christ. The man recounts how he sat outside a church as they sang “All for Jesus, all for Jesus / All my being’s ransomed powers / All my thoughts, and all my doings / All my days, and all my hours.” He wondered what the Christians meant by that hymn. He said, “It seems to me there’s an awful lot of trouble in the world that somehow wouldn’t exist if all the people who sing such songs went and lived them out. I suppose I don’t understand. But what would Jesus do? Is that what you mean by following His steps?” (In His Steps, p. 10)
That conversation leads many of the novel’s characters to ask, “What would Jesus do?” when faced with important decisions. As the novel unfolds, the effect of this question is lived out in ways both small and dramatic, and the characters come to embrace the life of Jesus as the core of their faith and their living it out.
I’m asking the question in a little more pointed way: What would Jesus have me do? What is it that drives our decisions and sets the course of our action as individuals and as a church? What would Jesus have US do?
I’ve been thinking about this question and the kind of life, the kind of church, the kind of community, the kind of nation, and the kind of world we would live in if we replace “Jesus” with another word. What would FEAR have me do? What would SELF-CENTEREDNESS have me do? What would GREED have me do? What would RESENTMENT have me do? What would AN UNFORGIVING SPIRIT have me do?
Sunday we’ll consider this and be challenged by the question for us who profess to be followers of Jesus: What would Jesus have me — have us — do? It is among the most important questions we should answer.
Grace and Peace,
Dr. Tim Bruster