You have seen the WWJD braclets and you have heard the mantra, “What would Jesus do?” and if you are a Christian you have probably asked yourself that question a few times. But should we ask ourselves that question? Is it the best question to ask ourselves in a given situation? Is there something misleading about asking ourselves that question. I think we should seek to imitate our savior but doing so is an endeavor at which we will surely fail. None of us can truly imitate Jesus–otherwise we could attain perfection on our own.
I see 2 obvious problems with asking ourselves “What would Jesus do?” Furthermore, I would argue that Jesus isn’t the only person we should be imitating *gasp* (read the rest of the post and I will explain).
First, this question fails to take into account the fact that we are sinners and ultimately incapable of answering that question correctly. At every moment of our lives, you and I are sinners. There is nothing that we do that isn’t affected by sin. Even the good and God-glorifying decisions we make are decisions made by sinners because though saved and indwelt by the Holy Spirit, there is never a moment of our lives when we are not sinners (until Christ returns–then we will be like Him). So until we are free from sin, we will never know exactly just what Jesus would do in a given situation.
Secondly, asking “What would Jesus do?” is an exercise in speculation. As the good people at Way of the Master have pointed out in the past, there is a much better question we can ask ourselves than “What would Jesus do?” and that is “What DID Jesus do?” That question is answered for us in the Bible–in which we have 4 reliable and inspired accounts of what Jesus actually did during his earthly ministry–Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. So we can guess at what Jesus might do in a given situation or we can open up the Bible and learn from what Jesus actually did. We can learn about Him from the divinely inspired Word He left for us!
Furthermore, Jesus isn’t the only person we should imitate. The Bible is chock-full of excellent examples of what it looks like to faithfully follow Christ. You have guys like Daniel who was told he could no longer pray to Yahweh and he went up to his room, opened the window for all to see and prayed aloud to Yahweh–then he was thrown in a lion’s den! You have guys like Peter and John who were beaten for preaching the gospel and responded by saying, “we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20). And you have guys like Paul who was shipwrecked, beaten, stoned, run out of cities, mocked, and imprisoned and responded to all of it by saying, “I count all things loss compared to surpassing value of knowing Jesus Christ my Lord” (Phil. 3:8).
In fact, Paul even told the Philippians to imitate him! Check it:
Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. For many of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. But citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.
Paul was confident enough in his Christian walk to tell the Philippians, “join in imitating me.” But more than that he encourages them to imitate “those who walk according to the example you have in us.” You have to read Philippians 4:12-16 to understand exactly what he means by that, but here is the skinny: In Philippians 4:12-16, Paul argues that those who are mature in Christ are those who understand that they are not perfect but are setting their eyes continually on Christ and constantly seeking to grow in their relationship with Him. So Paul encourages us here, to imitate those Christians in our lives, who though imperfect are seeking to faithfully and consistently follow Christ.
In many ways, that is discipleship. Growing in relationship with other believers more mature than yourself. Seeking them out, praying with them, eating with them, talking with them, asking them questions and imitating them in-so-far as they imitate Christ (1 Cor. 11:1).
So here are 2 questions to replace “What would Jesus do?”:
1. What did Jesus do? Or more specifically, what does the Bible say?
2. What do my brothers in Christ think? What do those I look up to in the faith have to say? (then actually ask them!)
And finally, here are 2 challenges for you:
1. Have you ever sought out someone to personally disciple you? Are you seeking out brothers in Christ that will help you grow?
2. Are you investing time in discipling others? Discipleship is a two-way street!