If you were within just about any proximity to a church youth group in the 1990s, no doubt you saw, wore, or personally owned dozens of WWJD bracelets. Of course, these initials simply stood for the question, “What would Jesus do?”
They. Were. Everywhere.
Call it good intentions, call it genius marketing, call it whatever you want, I can’t think of anyone I knew that didn’t wear one at least for a little while. In my Sunday School class at church, we had WWJD posters, WWJD Bibles (because…I have no idea), WWJD devotions, WWJD hats…t-shirts…necklaces…
Then…they were gone. Oh, you can probably still spot them every once in a while, but they’re about as scarce as a Model-T these days.
Because, like many trends in the church, it was just another thing people did without (mostly) having any idea why…what it REALLY meant…or what consequences came with participating.
When I was a little boy, my grandfather gave me a book from I believe the 1920s or 1930s…it was called In His Steps by Charles M. Sheldon. It was actually in this book, originally written in 1896, that the question, “What would Jesus do?” first appeared. The premise of the book is about a pastor who is suddenly struck by the reality that while Christians proudly proclaim that they follow Jesus, they actually live greedy, judgmental, selfish lives.
Lives based on results…
Lives that avoided the poor…
Lives not focused on doing good to others…
Sheldon opens the first chapter with the pastor writing his sermon for Sunday about what it means to follow Jesus. He’s interrupted by a poor jobless man asking for help. The pastor turns him away and finishes the sermon. On Sunday, however, the same man shows up at the pastor’s church…this time interrupting the service. As the parishioners look on in awkward silence, he explains how he’s lost his job…how his wife has died in the most impoverished section of the city…how he wasn’t welcomed anywhere…how no one will help him…even the Christians. Then, he lowers the boom with these remarks:
“I’ve tramped through this city for three days trying to find a job; and in all that time, I’ve not had a word of sympathy or comfort except from your minister here, who said he was sorry for me and hoped I would find a job somewhere.
What do you mean when you sing ‘I’ll go with Him with Him, all the way?’ Do you mean that you are suffering and denying yourselves and trying to save lost, suffering humanity just as I understand Jesus did? What do you mean by it? I see the ragged edge of things a good deal. I understand there are more than five hundred men in this city in my case. Most of them have families.
My wife died four months ago. I’m glad she is out of trouble. My little girl is staying with a printer’s family until I find a job. Somehow, I get puzzled when I see so many Christians living in luxury and singing ‘Jesus, I my cross have taken, all to leave and follow Thee,’ and remember how my wife died in a tenement in New York City, gasping for air and asking God to take the little girl, too. Of course, I don’t expect you people can prevent everyone from dying of starvation, lack of proper nourishment, and tenement air, but what does following Jesus mean? I understand that Christian people own a good many of the tenements.
A member of a church was the owner of the one where my wife died, and I have wondered if following Jesus all the way was true in his case.