I haven’t seen one in a while, but bracelets with the letters WWJD had some popularity at one time. The acronym stands for “what would Jesus do?” and was a reminder to follow Jesus in responding to a particular situation or question. I think that this is a worthy question to ask in any situation.
My problem is not with the theory behind the question, it is with the implementation. The problem lies in really understanding what Jesus would do.
In the Gospels, we have many episodes recorded where Jesus did exactly what he was not expected to do. A lame man was brought to Jesus so that he could walk again and Jesus forgave his sins (Mark 2:1-12). The woman caught in adultery was defended in front of the angry crowd (John 8:1-11). A rich man was told by Jesus that he needed to give away all his wealth (Matthew 19:16-22). A man from whom a legion of demons was expelled was told that he could not follow Jesus but should go home (Mark 5:18-19). These are just a few examples that come immediately to mind.
Yes, we can learn from these and begin to understand how Jesus responded to situations and people. But, as I see it, there are two problems in implementing the WWJD framework.
Love like Jesus loved
First, we cannot love the way that Jesus loved. I have observed in myself and in others that it is hard to see past my own needs, wants and shortcomings. I put everything through the grid of “what is good for Mark?” Yet Jesus put everything through the grid of what was good for the other person. Paul tells us in Philippians:
“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:3–8, ESV)
I see plenty of selfish ambition in myself, and I have observed it in others in the church. As a result of the fall of man, this is our default position. To implement the WWJD framework, we must understand and seek to counteract the selfish impulse.
See as Jesus sees
The second struggle in implementing WWJD is that we have a limited understanding. Jesus not only loved more deeply than we are capable of loving, he has a better understanding of the heart of the people. In John 2:24-25, the evangelist tells us:
“But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man.” (ESV)
To respond as Jesus would respond in every situation requires a wisdom and understanding that is supernatural. Jesus had the ability to see beyond all the pretense and delusion and respond in grace and truth (John 1:14). To really do what Jesus would do requires a thoughtful examination of my own motivations and the motivations of the person or persons I am dealing with at the time.
Get out of the way
Trying to respond to every situation as Jesus would do is a worthy goal. To do it, however, requires thoughtful examination of the situation, keeping in mind my own proclivity toward selfishness. I need to love as Jesus loved while remaining conscious of the effect of man’s defective sense of morality.
The good news is that I do not have to pursue this goal in my own strength and wisdom. In a similar struggle to learn contentment, Paul tells us “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13, ESV) Jesus tells us that he is with us until the end of time (Matthew 28:20). He also confirms that we will struggle but that he wins in the end (John 16:33).
I am not alone in the battle. I just need to stop getting in the way of the one who can win it.