Remember the WWJD fad a few years ago? The quote “What Would Jesus Do?” was found on everything from bracelets to tee-shirts to bumper stickers. It was (and remains) a dead-on approach to practicing Christianity.
Were you aware that this approach was far from being new? It was first championed by Charles Sheldon in 1896. In his much beloved book, In His Steps, he demonstrates what might happen if an entire congregation took WWJD to heart.
Set against the back drop of the “Gilded Age” of emerging American capitalism (where the gap between the rich and poor was even more pronounced than today) this book tells the story of a large, affluent big-city church being challenged and changed by the WWJD proposition. Even though it was written over a century ago it remains ultimately contemporary and completely revolutionary. Here is just an example:
What would Jesus do in the matter of wealth? How would he spend it? What principles would regulate His use of money? Would He be likely to live in great luxury and spend ten times as much on personal adornment and entertainment as He spent to relieve the needs of suffering humanity?…What would Jesus do about the great army of unemployed and desperate who tramp the streets and curse the church?…Would Jesus care nothing for them? Would He go His way in comparative ease and comfort? Would He say it was none of His business? Would He excuse Himself from all responsibility to remove the causes of such a condition?
These questions sound amazingly twenty-first century to me. Or maybe I should say they sound refreshingly first-century.
What would Jesus do? I will let him speak for himself.
The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor. Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me. Matthew 11:5-6
Earlier I mentioned that the fictionalized church of Mr. Sheldon was changed. Some fell away. They could not handle WWJD.
WWJD led Jesus to the cross. It is a given that it will lead us to one too. Will we be willing to pick it up?