To many, “What would Jesus do?” or “WWJD” has become a sort of moral compass to their lives. When confronted with a difficult situation or even in seeing a homeless man begging for money, Christians desire to to imitate their Lord and how He lived His life on the earth. I’ve been considering this way of living life and whether the principle of WWJD adequately equips believers to live the best life possible. I encourage all to thoughtfully consider what I’ve found to be true.
And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what do I have in this that concerns you? My hour has not yet come.”
Before delving into the true difficulties of the WWJD principle of living, I wanted to point out some of its obvious limitations when view in a certain context. If we are to just mimic everything about the Lord in how he walked, talked, and lived, it simply wouldn’t work. For starters, Jesus lived in a particular period of time with a particular culture, language, and social norm. Consider the above verse. Many young Christians, especially women, read this verse and are slightly offended at the Lord’s way of speaking to His mother. Yet, in 30ish A.D., “woman” was seen as a term of respect and endearment, not of rudeness and belittlement as it may be seen today.
In like manner, we shouldn’t all go around wearing a seamless tunic or speaking Aramaic (John 19:23; Mk. 15:34). The Lord’s human life occurred in a specific culture during a specific period of time. While we should not be fashioned according to this age in regard to its materialistic, self-glorifying ways, we also need not act and live as 1st century Jews (c.f. Rm. 12:2; 1 Cor. 9:20-21). How this looks practically, I do not know. I do know, however, that WWJD offers little help. What do the gospels have to say about whether we should wear pants or shorts? Speak with slang or with proper grammar? Have an iPhone, a more modest flip phone, or just a pen and paper for letter writing?
What Would He Really Do?
And when the Lord saw her, He was moved with compassion for her and said to her, “Do not weep.” And He came near and touched the bier, and those carrying it stood still. And He said, “Young man, to you I say, ‘Arise’.”
And having made a whip out of cords, He drove them all out of the temple, as well as the sheep and the oxen, and He poured out the money of the moneychangers and overturned their tables.
And as He was reclining at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and reclined together with Jesus and His disciples.
-Luke 7:13-14; John 2:15; Matthew 9:10
When most people apply the principle of WWJD, they imagine Jesus as a pleasant, friendly, lovely person to be around. But is this the Jesus we find in the gospels? Surely Jesus was the most pleasant and lovely person to ever live! Yet, He was also a man with a zealous heart for God’s house. He was a man would could be at a wedding feast, recline at table with tax collectors and sinners, and in the streets sympathizing with widows.
The Lord by no means falls into the category of “predictable.” At one point He is rebuking Pharisees. At another point He is healing the sick. On other occasions He is convincing people to not follow Him since it is too difficult. For others, He invites Himself over to their house to dine. A genuine attempt to do what Jesus would do by means of imitation leaves one confused and practically schizophrenic.
What He Really Did
Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John to be baptized by him. But John tried to prevent Him, saying, “It is I who have need of being baptized by You, and You come to me?” But Jesus answered and said to him, “Permit it for now, for it is fitting for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.”
The Lord was perfect, yet He started His ministry by being baptized, a symbol of death and self-denial. Why? Why would the only perfect man need to be buried in the waters of repentance?
Then Jesus answered and said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, ‘The Son can do nothing from Himself except what He sees the Father doing, for whatever that One does, these things the Son also does in like manner.'”
I can do nothing from Myself; as I hear, I judge, and My judgment is just, because I do not seek My own will but the will of Him who sent Me.
For I have not spoken from Myself; but the Father who sent Me, He Himself has given Me commandment, what to say and what to speak.
And He said, “Abba Father, all things are possible to You; removed this cup from Me; yet not what I will but what You will.”
-John 5:19, 30; 12:49; Mark 14:36
The Lord lived by another life. He was baptized as an act of self denial. Though perfect and sinless, He rejected His own life and will, choosing to live by the Father’s life and according to the Father’s will. This is how we ought to live:
As the living Father has sent Me and I live because of the Father, so he who eats Me, he also shall live because of Me.
What is Jesus Doing?
WWJD is the perfect principle by which to live one’s life, only if you understand that what Jesus did was deny Himself and live by another life. We cannot imitate the Christ of the gospels and have a proper living according to the will of God. We must deny ourselves, our concepts, our feelings, and live by the present, living Christ within. We should not live like Christ. We need to live Christ:
For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.
It should no longer be us living, but Christ living within:
I am crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me;
I hope that what I am saying makes sense conceptually to all the readers. I realize that for many, this may sound super mystical or you don’t feel like you’ve really experienced this much. To that, I plead that you would not settle with a mere imitation of Christ and the stereotypical understanding of “WWJD.” Seek the Lord! Desperately seek His personal leading and subjectively experience Him as the Spirit. We must realize that Christ’s life didn’t end at the gospels. He is living and active today!
“Lord Jesus have mercy on us all. Lead us and guide us in every situation. Even be the one living within us. We love you Lord.”