What would Jesus do?
A friend pointed out that the question is incredibly important, even if it’s seen as passe.
I’d go so far as to say it might be the most important question.
And yet… Can you ask it outloud? Can you ask it with a straight face? Can you ask it with out shuddering and feeling like the worst kind of cheese? (Which might be cheddar.)
Perhaps I’m rationalizing here, but I want to say that I’m not ashamed of my faith or Jesus. And as my friends observation, implies, I’m not alone in this aversion to the question.
Satan is smart. This would be terrifying if it weren’t for the fact that God’s a gazillion times smarter.
There’s a brilliance in how Satan worked all this out. He recognized that there was a powerful question: What would Jesus do? And he did his best to castrate it.
He began with the people who popularized the question. He turned it into an omnipresent slogan. We saw it everywhere. He oversaturated the world with it; on books, C.D.’s, bracelets, billboards, necklaces, notebooks, pencils, stuffed animals…
This first step did two things: Firstly, it triggered all the defenses we normally employ against marketing that has reached the saturation point. We naturally just filter things out that we see over and over again. Did you ever notice how you stop noticing strong smells when you’ve been around them long enough? It’s like that. You’re so close to it you don’t see it anymore.
Perhaps more damagingly, people made profits, tremendous profits, off of those four little letters. It called thier motivation into question.
And then there are the people who asked it. Rightly or wrongly, a perception popped up about the sort-of people who regularly asked this question. (Like many stereotypes, there probably is a root of truth in this perception. )
This perception is that WWJD became WWMSLPJD: What would my silly little preconcieved Jesus do?
People began with a rigid, innacurate, tiny picture of who Jesus was. And they basically used the question to reaffirm the things they wanted to believe. The marketing didn’t help. It allowed this to become a fashion show. It created a possibility to be pharisitic, to show off our holiness with wristbands and t-shirt, rather than internalize our holiness.
And now, the question, “What Would Jesus Do?” Doesn’t actually mean “What Would Jesus do?” Grabbing on to the letters “WWJD” means aligning oneself with this whole history of a certain group who answered that question in a quite specific way, which was arguably not the way that Jesus himself would have answered it.
It’s a bit like the whole “Christian” thing. People who reject the label generally recognize that it doesn’t matter what the dictionary says, in this case. They grab terms like Christ-follower, because the term “Christian” has picked up this whole connotation as a result of the history of the people who chose this term.
So there’s a disconnect between what a word (or question) should mean and what a word (or question) does mean. “WWJD” began it’s life like the term “Christian”. They had these meanings, based merely on what made them up.
It’s a bit like a person: when we’re born, all we really are is the things that make us up. (Genetics, soul, call it what you want.)
As these words begin to have an independent life, things happen to them. They gather a reputation, they are changed. Just like a growing person, who might choose to hang out with drug users or heroes, who might choose to live healthily or live destructively.
Of course, we should never give up on people. But I think it’s a valid question: At what point do we give up on redeeming words and phrases? The perversion of the question “WWJD” confronts us with this decision. And that’s a sad thing.