WWJD or WIJD?

A few years ago, everybody was talking about WWJD. People were wearing WWJD bracelets and putting WWJD bumper stickers on their cars. There were WWJD tee-shirts and pencils, even WWJD Bibles.

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The premise was that when you found yourself in a “situation” where you were not sure what to do, you simply asked yourself “What Would Jesus Do?” Then you would know exactly what to do! Very simple conceptually, and I really do think this slogan has helped many people make better decisions about significant life choices.

Is WWJD Consistent?
Problem is, WWJD never got me excited. There was something that just didn’t smell right and I could never quite put my finger on it. Until today.

WWJD? First of all, there is precious little we can do to find out what the historical Jesus of the Gospels was really like. None of us have ever met Jesus in the flesh. (Did he speak slowly? Did he have a good sense of humor? Did he look people in the eye when he taught?) What we know about Jesus is primarily from reading the four canonical Gospels, which in my Bible only take up 105 pages. We get very little additional insight into the “historical Jesus” by reading the rest of the New Testament. Much of the Gospels are filled with the actions of Jesus and the reactions of the people around him. There is nothing recorded about how Jesus made decisions – no “Seven Steps to Godly Decisions.” We just read of Jesus being thrust into incredibly complex, difficult circumstances and are amazed at his insight and wisdom in how he manages each situation.

Then there is also the fact that many of us have not taken the time to get to know Jesus very well. Most Christians will agree that we can meet with Jesus anytime through prayer and this should be a priority in our lives. But I’ve heard it said that if you want to humble a Christian, simply ask them about their prayer life. We boldly tell others we can know Jesus personally, but find we are so busy we simply don’t take the time. And when the going gets tough, that is when most of us rugged, independent westerners decide we need to take action – usually without talking to Jesus first.

And then, what is the “right” answer? When you ask a group of people What Would Jesus Do in a specific situation; you will often get as many answers as there are people in the room. The problem is that deep down we have a natural tendency to believe that God thinks much the same way we do. Many people’s image of Jesus is a mirror of themselves, or who they aspire to be. So to ask people with limited historical knowledge of Jesus, with little personal time with Jesus, “What Would Jesus Do” is leaving the door open to many, many different answers.

Finally, when we ask WWJD, what are we thinking about Jesus? Are we even thinking that Jesus is present? I fear that for many of us, the expanded version of WWJD is something like this: “Jesus was a great moral teacher, but he died a long time ago, so what might he have done if he were alive and in this situation?” Jesus was a great moral teacher and he did die nearly 2,000 years ago. But Jesus is not dead – He is alive! He is here now and will guide us in our difficult situations. But even though we believe Jesus is alive, we still often do not act as if he is present. What Would Jesus Do implies that we need to take it upon ourselves to figure out what Jesus would have done in this situation as best as we can based on what we know of him. Once we have figured that out, then we make a decision on whether we will choose to do what we think Jesus would have done. Then we buckle down and exert effort and discipline to do what Jesus would have done!

The Alternative – WIJD?
I once asked a friend why God keeps us here on earth. Since we continue to sin, and when we get to heaven we will no longer sin, wouldn’t it be better if God would take us home as soon as we come to faith? We then discussed how God chooses to continue to bring people to faith by working through his people – those who are already in the Kingdom. Each and every one of us is kept here with a purpose – to expand the Kingdom of God in our neighborhood.

What I have come to realize is that Jesus is still alive today. He is not on vacation, sitting at God’s right hand enjoying mangos and passion fruit, waiting for the his grand entrance at the Second Coming. He is active in this world. And Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, is working through those who have received Him. So the question is not What Would Jesus Do? but rather: What Is Jesus Doing?

The big picture here is: “Jesus is God crammed into a body, he is alive, he indwells me by his Holy Spirit and he is engaged in the current situation. What is it that Jesus wants to do, right now, through me?” This reframing of the context significantly changes our responsibilities. WWJD is an intellectual, analytical evaluation of a situation. Then we have a moral choice whether to do what our analysis determined is the right course of action. WIJD is a decision to turn to God in the moment, and ask him to act through us. It is asking to be filled with and led by the Holy Spirit so that our words and our actions are not our own, but rather guided by the Spirit of Jesus who lives in us. In this way we can be Jesus to the world around us.

So the next time you find yourself in a difficult situation (or any situation,) ask yourself: WIJD? What Is Jesus Doing – through me?

Originally posted sunday, april 15, 2007