In teaching my high school Old Testament class, I assign what I call “life application” papers. I want them to go beyond the Sunday School answers, learning to reason and think critically.
Last semester one of my students wrote about being at baseball practice. They were running in the outfield when he hit a hole, fell to the ground, twisting his ankle. He said out loud, “Crap! There’s a hole there.” To which a teammate reprimanded, “You shouldn’t say that.”
“Well, what do you think Jesus would say?”
A few years back “WWJD” was all the rage. “What Would Jesus Do?” It’s a question that brings us up short to check our thoughts and motives. It’s intended to be a Jesus filter through which to run every situation before we act or speak.
In theory, it points us in the right direction. In practice, there’s often a letter missing.
When we ask, “W.W.J.D?” what we are really asking is, “W.W.M.J.D”?
What would MY Jesus do?
It shows up regularly on Facebook in political discussion/debates. For example, my liberal friends are convinced that Jesus would have compassion on the poor, approve of government welfare and have harsh words for those who would even suggest that the solution to poverty is an economy that creates jobs and opportunities. Jesus would wear Birkenstocks, shop at Whole Foods, read the New York Times and Sojourner Magazine, wouldn’t use chemicals and would never think of securing a border. He would drive a Prius (only when He wasn’t riding a bicycle) and wouldn’t acknowledge the 2nd amendment. Jesus would never vote for Donald Trump.
My conservative friends are convinced that Jesus would listen to Rush Limbaugh, get His news from Drudge and Brietbart, remind people that hard work is a virtue, point to Wal-Mart as a successful example of free market competitive enterprise, think vegetarians are just lousy hunters and decry government as obscenely intrusive. Jesus would drive a Chevy pickup with a locked and loaded 12-gauge Winchester in the gun rack because it’s the sign of freedom. Jesus would never vote for Hillary Clinton.
What would your Jesus do?
What would MY Jesus do shows up in churches. Some of us are convinced that Jesus is a 5-point Calvinist. Some of us believe He is Arminian to the core. Most all of us are convinced that were Jesus walking the earth today He would attend our church and love our kind of music. Yet a read of the Gospels suggests it just as likely Jesus would be at the sports bar throwing darts, eating hot wings and watching NFL Sunday Ticket with those who need Him.
The challenge, of course, is to acknowledge God in His totality. Not just the parts of Him we like or that line up with our ideology. The Jesus who had compassion on the poor also spoke parables about the value of work and investment rewarded by the Master. The Jesus who said, “Render to Caesar what is Caesar’s” also taught that the kingdom of God is not of this world and that we are to be “in it, not of it”.
When we ask the question, “What would Jesus do?” we need to run it though all of Jesus, not just the parts of Him we agree with.
It’s difficult for some of us to imagine that Jesus could enjoy a homemade granola breakfast with fresh kiwi and organic orange juice, followed by sending 100 rounds of .40 caliber down range with a Smith & Wesson. Or that He could listen to NPR while reading the latest issue of Forbes. Yet we’d be wise to remember the wholeness of God.
It’s dangerous for any of us to think we know for certain what Jesus would do. His earthly ministry was, as Donald Kraybill wrote, “The Upside-Down Kingdom”. Jesus took what was expected, taken for granted and turned it on its ear. If you want to be rich, you must give it away. If you want to be great, you must be a servant of all. When you pray and fast, don’t let anyone know. Do your good deeds in secrecy.
Everything with Jesus was upside down. He didn’t fit in any category. Jesus is His own category. There is none like Him.
The best you and I can do is to study His Word to see Jesus in His totality. Only when we acknowledge the wholeness of God do His individual perfections become meaningful. His love becomes real when we begin to perceive His holiness. His grace comes alive in us when we understand His justice.
Which is to say we need to be careful about telling one another what our Jesus would do.
So how did my student answer the question put to him?
“I told the guy, “If Jesus was running and twisted His ankle in a hole I think He would say, “Crap! There’s a hole there.”
I gave him an A.
Todd A. Thompson – June 9, 2016