That’s my riff on the popular WWJD fad a while ago. “What Would Jesus Do?” isn’t a bad question. We confront all kinds of circumstances that Jesus never confronted, and it would be nice to know what Jesus would have done had he, for instance, been given the choice of paper or plastic. (I can never remember which is the more responsible of the two. Of course, more responsible than either is to buy a couple of those cloth shopping bags and keeping them in the car. I just keep forgetting to bring them in with me to the grocery store, so I end up with my groceries stuffed in multiple plastic bags [My grocery store no longer asks me whether I want paper or plastic—they probably got tired of people trying to remember which one they were supposed to say. Or with Christians asking themselves, “What would Jesus do?” and then standing there holding up the line while trying to figure out the answer.])
(You know you’re getting carried away with a parenthetical thought when you have a parenthetical thought within a parenthetical thought.) (And then follow it up with another parenthetical thought.)
What was I talking about?
Oh yeah, DWJS and WWJD. So people got those little rubber bracelets with WWJD on them to remind themselves to act like Jesus would have acted had he been a 21st Century American. Which is interesting because so many 21st Century American Christians don’t even understand how Jesus acted as a 1st Century Jew. But anyway, like I said, WWJD is not a bad question, but rather than wondering what Jesus might have done in our situation and then, maybe, doing it, it occurs to me that we ought to first worry about doing the stuff that Jesus actually did tell us to do.
You know, like love our enemies, make peace with our accusers, turn the other cheek, put the sword away, deny ourselves, take up crosses, not worship until we’ve reconciled with anyone we’ve hurt, etc. Stuff like that.
I mean, we don’t have to wonder about that stuff. He said it. Of course, that doesn’t keep us from wondering whether he really meant it, or was just, you know, making a point or something.
I think he meant it. He went to a lot of trouble just to say it, and he was willing to die because some of the stuff he said offended powerful people who had the ability to have him crucified. And he never once, not once—not while they were punching him, not while they were pulling his beard out, not while they were scourging him or nailing him to the wood, said, “Dudes, c’mon, I didn’t really mean it, I was just making a point!”
So he said these things and he meant these things, and they are pretty straightforward. Seriously, “Love your enemies” is rather clear, isn’t it? You can word-study the thing if you want, but there are only three words in the whole phrase—four in the Greek, which, translated literally, would be “You love your enemies.” Which removes whatever ambiguity one might find there. “Who, me?” “Yes, you. You love the ones you hate.” Pretty clear. And he meant it, which means you don’t really get to call yourself a follower of Jesus if you aren’t at least trying to not only stop hating but to start loving the ones you have been hating. Or if you aren’t seriously seeking to forgive those who have hurt you, or seriously seeking reconciliation with those you have hurt. I mean, what does it mean to call yourself a follower of Jesus if you aren’t actually following him—you know, actually doing the stuff that he told you to do?
Ah, but there’s the rub. People don’t call themselves “Followers of Jesus”, they call themselves (and each other) “Christians”, which has come to mean a person who has accepted as factually true certain data about Jesus—his divine sonship, his virgin birth, his sacrificial death, and his bodily resurrection. Say yes to all that stuff, pray a prayer, and you’re a Christian.
And there’s nothing else you have to do. Including the stuff that Jesus told us to do. That’s like extra credit, good for some jewels in your heavenly crown. Or maybe for the fanatics.
Well, among the many reasons that Jesus died is that he believed what he said and he wouldn’t back down at all, even with death staring him in the face. Therefore his followers better take what he said very seriously. So instead of wondering What Would Jesus Do? maybe we ought to simply Do What Jesus Said.
I’m ordering bracelets.