Lutheran Church Missouri Synod
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Not WWJD but WDJD!
By Dr. Richard P. Bucher
Lately my mailbox has been filled to overflowing with advertisements for pins, bracelets, bumper stickers, etc., with the letters WWJD, an acronym for "What would Jesus do?" Many have responded to the WWJD campaign with gushing enthusiasm. I'm not one of them.
First, let's not confuse this approach with Christ-likeness. Asking people "What would Jesus do?" does not necessarily lead to them to emulate Jesus. The approach assumes that Christians will be able to correctly deduce what Jesus would do in a given situation. This is often not the case. Well meaning Christians often come to terribly erroneous conclusions about what they think Jesus would do.
The quintessential example is the novel In His Steps by Charles Monroe Sheldon, the book from which the phrase, "What would Jesus do?" originated. In the book, all the members of a congregation dedicate themselves for an entire year to do nothing without asking WWJD. Among the things that they decide that Jesus would do is avoid all secular entertainment, such as sporting events. It leads the congregation to a new kind of Pharisaism, as they begin insisting on doing and not doing things that the Scriptures nowhere teach. The WWJD slogan asks one to speculate on what one imagines Jesus would do, rather than pointing one to the Ten Commandments. By meditating on the Ten Commandments, we have all the information we need to know how God expects us to live.
Second, and most importantly, though it is true that Christians are to strive to be like Jesus in all they do, this is not the reason that He came among us. He came to be Savior not Example. He came to proclaim primarily Gospel not Law (Luke 4:18-20; John 1:17). The problem with the WWJD campaign is that the focus is all Law. By Law, I mean that teaching of Scripture in which God tells us what we must do or not do and what will happen to us if we fail to perform according to His perfect standards - see Romans 3:19-20. But this is NOT the focus of the New Testament.
The focus of the NT is WDJD = "What DID Jesus Do?" Answer: Nearly two thousand years ago, He became our Substitute in life and death. In life, He was obedient to atone for our disobedience, loving to atone for our lovelessness, holy to atone for our filthiness, zealous in good works to atone for our lack of zeal, righteous to atone for our unrighteousness, wise to atone for our foolishness, selfless to atone for our selfishness (See Romans 5:19; 8:1-4; 1 Corinthians 1:30-31; 2 Corinthians 5:21. In death, He was punished for our sin, though He was sinless, to win for us complete forgiveness, pardon, peace, holiness, reconciliation, justification, righteousness, redemption, everlasting life (Isaiah 53:4-6; Romans 3:23-25; Galatians 3:13; 1 Peter 2:24, 3:18)! All this is offered free of charge to those who believe that Jesus has done it for them personally. All this Jesus DID for us. All this He gives freely to us. That's what the Gospel is all about!
Ultimately, WWJD, because it is nothing but Law, forces Christians to focus on their own performance. Such focus leads Christians to one of two conclusions. Those with insensitive, Pharisaic consciences will think that they are actually doing what Jesus would do, will grow increasingly judgmental and legalistic, and will create and multiply new laws/principles for Christian living. Those with sensitive consciences will be driven to sadness and despair as they come face to face with their utter failure to do what the Law demands.
Dear reader, if you have not yet experienced and learned this, you will: The Law cannot make us better Christians! The Law shows us what we should be and condemns us when we're not. But it does not and cannot give us the power to do what it commands. The Law cannot change us.
But WDJD (What DID Jesus do?), as does all Gospel, directs our gaze to Jesus' saving performance. It directs our attention to what Jesus has already done for us, to that which is already fully ours through faith. It turns away our eyes from our sin and failure and bids us look to the Savior who has kept the Law for us and taken away all our sin. It is by focusing on the Gospel that we are empowered to change and do change.
WWJD is the latest is a long line of handsomely packaged programs that seek to bring about an increase in sanctification and growth through the Law. When will our evangelical friends learn to turn to the Gospel for Christian growth as well as salvation? The Gospel not only prepares us for dying, it empowers us for living. The overwhelming message that I get from examining the typical Christian bookstore literature is: "The Gospel tells you how to be saved; it is essential to conversion. But if you want to be a mature Christian, you must plumb the depths of the Law. You must dedicate yourself to faithfully following Christian principles. If you try hard enough, then you will experience a breakthrough, etc." For such authors and the people that read their literature, the Gospel has no relevance for Christian living. What a tragedy!
If we must have slogans and acronyms, then let ours be WDJD. According to the Revelation given to St. John, what will captivate the saints in eternity, what they will talk and sing about forever, is not "What would Jesus do?", but "What DID Jesus do?"
And they sang a new song: "You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth." Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. In a loud voice they sang: Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!" Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, singing: "To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!" The four living creatures said, "Amen," and the elders fell down and worshiped (Revelation 5:9-14).