Do you remember the WWJD bracelets? It seemed that in Christian circles, “What would Jesus do?” was the question everyone was asking. It really wasn’t a bad fad. We should care about what Jesus did. But a lot of the time, it left people to come to their own decisions on this matter- and subjective morality is never a good thing.
But, as we see our country (and the American church) becoming more and more polarized, maybe it is time to revisit this question. Maybe it’s time we ask ourselves “What would Jesus do?” before we hit that “post” button on social media. And maybe it’s time we wonder, “What would Jesus do?” when our conversations with people in our “camp” become too heavily peppered with words like “they” and “those people.”
If we, as the American church, did just that one step, we might see some healing begin and our witness to those who are lost redeemed. But let’s not just stop there. Let’s take that 90’s fad and extend it into the 21st century. Because I think the more relevant question is: Do we want to act like Jesus or do we want Jesus to act through us? This seems trivial at first glance but I think it is substantive in how we relate to our spouses our kids and the world in which we live and interact.
First of all, acting like Jesus, isn’t a bad thing. If we were going to try to imitate anyone, He is the best place to start. But if that is all it is – acting – then we run the risk of legalism. Jesus had harsh words for the Pharisees who did a very good job acting in accordance with the law. But it was as if they were wearing a mask in a play: their true selves did not reflect the intent of the law.
If we act like we think Jesus would, but do not have the heart of Jesus, we miss our commission as His co-heirs. When we become believers, Christ comes to live in us. We become the temple of the Holy Spirit and a vessel through which He can continue the work He started when He entered our world.
But how do we do this? How do we become a vessel for Jesus? It comes down to basic laws of matter: you cannot fill a full bucket before emptying it out. If we want Jesus to act through us, we need to make room for Him. Consider these verses:
“He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less.” (John 3:30)
“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20)
“Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives.” (Galatians 5:24-25)
If we truly want more of Jesus, we need less of us. I confess, this is not a comfortable concept. There are things that I have strong convictions about. There are things that I am passionate about. As I entertain and feed those convictions and passions they grow bigger and take a life of their own. Then before I know it, these convictions can become the lens through which I read the news, listen to sermons and interpret comments from others. Unfettered, they can fill me to the brim and leave no room for Jesus to work through me in a world that so desperately needs Him.
The Christian life if full of blessing, joys and hope in a glorious future. But because we live in a “now but not yet” state, it is also full of great challenge. One of those challenges is dying to self. Given the current political and social climate, what does that look like?
There are some practical things we might want to try in order to move from wondering what Jesus would do to desiring Jesus to work through us.
1) Empty yourself every morning. Sit on the side of your bed and simply say, “More of you today, less of me, Lord.”
2) Practice the presence of God. Make a conscious effort to direct your thought life away from you and toward the Lord. For a quick and practical guide on how one man did just that, read, The Practice of the Presence of God, by Brother Lawrence.
3) Ask God to love through you. You may not feel like being loving toward others. You may be convinced you are right. Nevertheless, make an effort to periodically ask the Lord during the day to let His love for those around you to flow out of you.
4) Wait. If we study the life and person of Jesus, one thing that is abundantly clear is that he was not a man of rash, impulsive actions. He led a measured, calm and centered life. His interactions with people reveal so much about his ability to wait. Take note of your inner state. Feeling frenetic? Prayerful waiting is the uncomfortable but effective anecdote.
5) Really listen. We need ears to hear. Especially when we disagree with someone. Dialogue is not a tennis match with each person waiting to return a volley. It’s a leisurely stroll, side by side.
6) Trust the Spirit. The Holy Spirit can enter into parts of a person’s heart that your words cannot, no matter how passionately delivered or factually supported. Trust Him to be the agent of change, not you.
7) Audit your input. Reading from sources that support your “side” only add fuel to the fire of division. Choose to read widely and with an open mind. But more importantly, at the end of the day put it all on a scale. Which is has had a weightier influence? The words of man or the Word of the Lord?
Difficult seasons are the raw materials the Lord loves to use to build a stronger and better church. Let’s all do our part to not just speculate what Jesus would do, but rather, how we can be a vessel through which He can love, heal and save a lost world.Image by Anemone123 from Pixabay