By Drew Zuverink
Most people who have been Christians for a while know what "WWJD" stands for. WWJD stands for "what would Jesus do?" It is supposed to be a question that someone asks themselves before they do or say something. However they think Jesus would act if he was in their situation, that is then how they will try to act. This slogan has made it's way onto t-shirts and most famously it's been made into bracelets for people to wear. Personally the bracelets were my favorite. But there is one very serious flaw with this way of thinking.
To follow Jesus is not to try to behave as he did when he was "on the spot." To follow Jesus means to copy his overall lifestyle so that when we are "on the spot," under persecution, under pressure or in the spotlight - we will have the already built character to handle the situation as Jesus would. Asking ourselves, "What would Jesus do?" when suddenly in the face of an important or difficult situation is simply not an adequate strategy to live as Jesus lived.
Any of us who have tried the WWJD strategy can testify that although our intentions were good, thinking, "What would Jesus do in this situation?" often times didn't work. Our sinful flesh was stronger in the heat of the moment and we still watched that pornographic video, we still lashed out with anger, we still poured ourselves another drink or we still ignored the person in need. Looking at our WWJD bracelets might have helped us a few times, but for every one time it worked, we can think of dozens of times that it didn't work. Is there a more effective strategy for living as Jesus did?
If I compare the WWJD strategy to a different situation you might even figure out what the more effective strategy might be without me even telling you.
Suppose a young boy idolized his favorite professional baseball player. He wants nothing more than to be able to pitch, hit and run as well as his idol. So what does he do? When he is in a baseball game, he tries to behave exactly like his idol does. The professional is well known for sliding head first into bases, so the young boy does too. The star wears batting gloves, so the young boy does too. The young boy tries anything and everything that his idol does, hoping to be like him. The young boy buys the same type of shoes that the pro wears, the same glove, the same bat. Will the young boy succeed in performing like the professional? We all know the answer quite well; no. The young boy will not succeed if all he tries to do is to be like the professional during the game because the professional did not achieve his excellence by trying to behave a certain way only during the game. Instead, the professional chose an overall life of preparation so that when game time came - all of those skills and behaviors came naturally to him.
When Christians try to behave as Jesus did when it is "game time," when we are faced with peer pressure or temptation or an opportunity to share the gospel - while living the rest of our lives the same as everyone else - that is like the aspiring young baseball player mentioned above. The strategy is bound to fail.
It is a grave and fatal mistake to believe that following Jesus consists in loving our enemies, going the extra mile, turning the other cheek, forgiving those who do terrible things to us, suffering patiently and hopefully and sharing the gospel - while living the rest of our lives just as everyone else around us does. Unless we adopt Jesus' ways of preparation we will not have the character to naturally behave as he did in those situations.
We can become like Christ by adopting Jesus' overall lifestyle. Jesus practiced what we call "Spiritual disciplines." These are the practices that build character so that when we are in the heat of the moment - behaving as Christ behaved will flow naturally. In fact, for those who truly adopt Jesus' spiritual disciplines, they will find it harder to act differently than Jesus did because following Christ will come naturally to them.
Here are some of the spiritual disciplines that were a part of Jesus' regular lifestyle and routine:
- Solitude and silence.
- Simple and sacrificial living.
- Intense study and meditation upon God's word and ways.
- Service to others.
If and only if Christians will learn to order our lives around spiritual disciplines such as prayer, scripture reading, meditation and the like - we will be able to become more Christ-like in all areas of our lives. It is time for the church to stop trying to behave as Jesus did while neglecting the character building practices that Jesus practiced. It's time to get serious about the essentials again. It's time to be people of prayer again. It's time to know and love our Bibles again. It's time to become a group of people who actually look and act differently - instead of just being a group of people who aspire to look and act differently. It is actually possible to be Christ-like. But only if we are devoted to the fundamental practices listed above.
(Much of this was paraphrased from the book titled, "The Spirit of the Disciplines," by Dallas Willard). I highly recommend reading it.