Whatever Happened to the Old Adage “What Would Jesus Do?”

by Gina, Steppes of Faith

“Let your gentleness be known to all men.” Philippians 4:5

I love old things. They all have so much value. Old books, old artwork, old television shows and movies, old music, old houses, old clocks…. You get the idea. In my opinion, old is very cool. I love old things so much I could watch “Antique Roadshow” until smoke pours out of my ears.

And, I love old sayings and adages, which also have a lot of value. Maybe it’s because I’m a writer, but catchy phrases are just plain fun (at least I think so). Benjamin Franklin was a genius for crafting catchy phrases that linger on today. Phrases like “A penny saved is a penny earned,” and “An apple a day will keep the doctor away.” He wrote tons of them, and, oddly enough, they’re all still true.

Another old saying that’s still true isn’t actually all that old. I first heard it in the 1980s when I was in high school. It caught on for a while, but then, like most things these days, it seemed to fade away and I’m not sure why.

I’m talking about the saying/question “What Would Jesus Do?” You may have known it as “WWJD” for short.

I believe it’s time for its revival.

Finding Jesus in the Everyday

Every day we see, hear, and experience first-hand injustice and cruelty that blows across the earth. It runs the gamut. From sharp budget cuts in our public schools to favoritism in the workplace on up to racism and criminal terrorist activity, it’s apparent that the world is becoming more and more unkind.

So, I am often reminded of the old saying or question “What would Jesus do?” in everday situations that tend to super upset us. Situations such as…

What would our Lord and Savior do when a driver cuts us off in traffic and we’re late for work or an appointment?

What would God do if a neighbor accidentally drove over our new irrigation system?

How would the Almighty react if someone ahead of us in an already long line at the bank decided to allow two more people go ahead of them?

What would Jesus say to our kids if they were getting a bit out of hand in a crowded store and they bumped into Him accidentally?

We are continually and increasingly facing unpleasant- or downright mean and hateful- situations that not only test our patience but also what we know we should do as followers of Christ.

What would Jesus do if He was caught in heavy traffic?

Photo courtesy of Peter Bowater, Science Photo Library

An Old, More Imperfect World

In a fallen world that’s moving farther away from God’s original perfection in Adam with every tick of the clock, we encounter more and more people behaving badly and unkindly.

Which is why reviving and asking ourselves again “What would Jesus do?” is so important, now more than ever. This little, old question is something we can put in our pocket and pull out anytime we have a bad moment during our day because it rightfully emphasizes two things:

  1. Jesus should be at the forefront of everything we do and say.
  2. We should keep His commands in every situation no matter how unpleasant it may be.

If we respond with gentleness and kindness to unhappy moments, what a different world we would have. Wouldn’t you agree?

God often has uncanny timing to illustrate His lessons, which He took the liberty to do once again just as I was writing this article.

I just came home from a weekend trip to Ohio. I returned home after four years for my uncle’s funeral. As great as it was to see everyone, I was clearly the only Christian around for miles. I was a sheep among wolves, so to speak. And I was treated as such (and this was from my own family). One evening was particularly difficult and I had to pull out everything in my brain that Jesus has taught me so far to hold myself together.

It's hard to ask "what would Jesus do?" when you're under attack.

Feeling as if you’re under attack conjures up a whole bunch of emotions and “fight or flight” reactions. It’s hard to think clearly and do as Jesus does. I eventually had to walk into another room to take a deep breath and regroup. If I had been able, I would have stayed there taking lots of big breaths, but I couldn’t. So, I went back to the battlefield and did my best. When it was over, I hurried upstairs to my bedroom and fell on my knees to pray.

I thought of Jesus and the Pharisees. How did He put up with all that? The obviously easy answer is He’s God. But He’s also love. He chose to love and be patient even while He was scorned and teased. And that’s the whole point.

Everything Old is Still Relevant

Jesus gave us His greatest command in Matthew 22:37.

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

And what is love? The answer is in 1 Corinthians 13:4.

“Love is patient. Love is kind. It does not want what belongs to others. It does not brag. It is not proud. It is not rude. It does not look out for its own interests. It does not easily become angry. It does not keep track of other people’s wrongs. Love is not happy with evil, but it is full of joy when the truth is spoken. It always protects. It always trusts. It always hopes. It never gives up. Love never fails.”

Paul writes in Galatians 5:14-15, “For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ But if you bite and devour one another [like wild animals], beware lest you be consumed by one another.” (my emphasis)

That verse alone just might sum up what we experience on a regular basis. We encounter so many people biting others (so to speak) and trying to take control out of the need to always be right. It ultimately consumes the people around them causing misery and chaos. Unfortunately, we see the proof of this every time we watch the news.

What’s truly sad, though, is if more people are biting and strong-arming others, then love is pushed out and Jesus gets shoved out right along with it.

There is an Answer

Ask yourself "What would Jesus Do?" and then choose love in every situation.

Fortunately, there is an answer to all this chaos and madness.

We can reclaim love in our lives and extend it to others, we can reignite a worldwide love fest, if we stop to consider what Jesus would do in an unsettling situation. We can then pair it with the characteristics of the Holy Spirit to help us quickly find the answer we need so we respond righteously and graciously.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” Galatians 5:22-23

“Let your gentleness be known to all men.” Philippians 4:5

The next time you’re tempted to lash out against or defend an injustice, when you feel tired and inpatient, or you just can’t take it anymore, stop and ask yourself that old question “What would Jesus do?” Let Him speak to your heart so you do not sin in your anger (Ephesians 4:26).

Then, when the storm has passed, you can glorify God and victoriously declare the words of Psalm 118:17,

“I will not die but live, and will proclaim what the Lord has done.”

Your Turn

How do you respond to unpleasant people you encounter? What ideas do you have that might help others react with kindness, patience, and love? Share your ideas with me here. I’d love to hear from you!

Further Reading

Too often, people throw stones at others in judgment instead of choosing compassion. Come explore how we can be less like the villagers ready to throw stones at the adulteress and more like Jesus ready to give grace in my recent article Dropping Your Stones and Choosing Compassion. You can read it right here. And, as always, your thoughts and comments are always welcome.

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2 thoughts on “Whatever Happened to the Old Adage “What Would Jesus Do?”

  1. Thank you for sharing. I used to not think about what Jesus would do, but now since I am saved, I often say WWJD. I
    If we all did that, then we all would be in better shape and not making bad decisions. Amen

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