Being a Christian kid in the ‘90s made it nearly impossible to escape the “WWJD” phase of the church world. For those of you who are unfamiliar, “WWJD” stood for “What Would Jesus Do?” The goal of the movement was to saturate young minds with that particular question causing them to think about what Jesus would do in any given situation in which they might find themselves. Apparently there was a rampant issue with young Christians in the early 1990’s not composing themselves in the way Jesus would, or at least in the way the adults around these students wanted them to act.
I myself owned a handful of “WWJD” bracelets, some homemade in Sunday School while others were leather bound and were only to be worn for special social occasions. These bracelets I displayed proudly to let the world around me know that I was intentionally seeking to do what Jesus would want me to do. However, even as an elementary aged student, I struggled with this concept. How could I really know if Jesus preferred if I watched Disney or Nickelodeon? How could I know for sure that Jesus did not want me to play Pokemon? What would Jesus really do if some kid made fun of the fact that he wore glasses? Digging into my illustrated story Bible did not help much and only added to my confusion. What would Jesus really do?
The confusion and room for personal interpretation that the “WWJD” movement allowed is one of the main reasons that “WWJD” did not last all that long and has since fallen into a parody of itself. Certainly we would all love to know for a fact what Jesus would do in any given situation. We would love to know without a doubt what words Jesus would use, what food he would eat, and what entertainment he deemed okay, but the fact remains that for the most part we simply cannot know for a certainty what he would in fact do. Reading the Bible seems to exasperate our confusion more often than not as we see Jesus performing and acting in a multitude of different ways depending on the situation that he found himself.
Sometimes Jesus ran from crowds, other times he announced himself for all to hear and see. There are moments he preaches peace and love and moments where he is flipping tables and throwing people out of the temple. There are times he speaks in almost indecipherable riddles and other times he speaks as clear as crystal. When we truly dig into the gospel narratives we begin to realize that imitating Jesus is a daunting task. Perhaps emulating Jesus, the Son of God, God in flesh, the Savior of the world, and the King of kings, is harder than my Sunday School teachers cared to admit.
And yet, at the same time, maybe it is not. I have had a great opportunity this year to walk through the book of John every week with a small group. As we have torn apart this account of Jesus’ life, written by one of his closest and dearest friends, one action of Jesus can be seen to be repeated again and again. An action that ultimately defined Jesus’ ministry and life as a whole.
Jesus looked for where God was working and he joined God there.
“So Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise.’” John 5:19
“’I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me.’”
“’And he who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to him.’” John 8:29
These are just a few examples of Jesus’ intentional desire to join in the work God was doing during his time on earth. The book of John is saturated with Jesus’ words and actions demonstrating his joining in the work he saw his Father performing.
So today when we ask ourselves the “WWJD” question our focus perhaps should not be on whether or not Jesus would listen to a certain genre of music, or drink specific types of drink, or go to a certain locale. Instead, maybe our focus should be, like that of Jesus, on seeking out where God is working in the world around us and joining in that work.
Maybe the “WWJD” movement stalled out because it became so focused on our actions, on what we were and were not doing all in the name of Jesus. Whenever our attention gets wrapped up in what we are doing, no matter what our reasoning is, we will eventually fail. Maybe, just maybe, the “WWJD” movement would have thrived a little more had it been focused on what God was already accomplishing and how we as His children could join in on what He was doing. And anytime our attention is set on God and the work He is calling us to join in, we cannot help but become part of something far greater than we could ever begin to imagine.