The Problem With WWJD
In 1896, Rev Charles Sheldon wrote a book titled, “In His Steps.” It quickly became popular during the Social Gospel movement of the early 19th and 20th century. Social Gospel, meaning a movement centered around socio-political issues and the Gospel, those mainly of inequality, racism, poverty, and the like. The premise was that in order to be a true Christian, we need to walk in Jesus’ footsteps. They believe that the central purpose of Christians is to create the highest quality of life for all people.
Fast forward 100 years, Janie Tinklenberg, a youth pastor in Michigan, was inspired by the book and wanted to encourage her students to bring their faith into action. The phrase What Would Jesus Do, already established in plenty of literature up to this point, was then put on bracelets and t-shirts that she gave to them to serve as a reminder.
I don’t think that many people today who read or know the phrase WWJD think immediately of social justice and reform, but it’s worth nothing the origin as we explore the phrase WHJD.
When most people think of the phrase WWJD, it’s harmless in its nature and in many cases, can be helpful to serve as a reminder of how we are to conduct ourselves. The Apostle Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 11:1, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” In Ephesians 5:1 Paul also states, “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.” All throughout the New Testament we can find a clear message that we are to imitate Christ. Afterall, he is the perfect example to ever exist in human history.
So while we understand that we are to imitate Christ, the question then follows, what does it mean to imitate him? The original movement for WWJD is based on a movement that centers around social redemption rather than salvific redemption found in the cross. It’s rooted in the social aspects of how we are to treat the poor, the marginalized, and the outcasts of society. While these are certainly issues to address, that doesn’t help when we are trying to decide what job to take or whether or not to dump our boyfriend/girlfriend.
With limited historical text on the life of Jesus (the Gospels), we don’t have clear examples of how Jesus made his decisions in every aspect of his life. This is where I believe the acronym falls short. We can ask ourselves all day long “What Would Jesus Do?” but finding a practical answer devoids the true initiative we have as believers: to abide in the vine (Jesus) and be transformed by the renewing of our mind to make decisions in our life that align with God’s will and for his glory. Or in other words, we shouldn’t have to ask the question over and over again if we truly are one with Christ and know his will for our lives.
It doesn’t matter if you are trying to decide whether or not to go into full time ministry or what to eat for lunch, there comes a point where what matter more is our heart posture towards God and bringing him honor and glory in everything we do. For example, if you are in between two jobs and which one to choose, instead of asking what would Jesus do, we would answer, what is God’s will for me? And in that, we find the answer that it doesn’t matter which job we choose, as long as we honor God in the decision and live that decision out for his glory.
So what am I getting at?
It’s time to change the message.
Rather than a question that leads to activism and social salvation, let’s ask a question that leads to eternal salvation.
WHJD Enters the Chat
WHJD, or broken down, What Has Jesus Done, is a similar yet drastically different phrase that truly leads people to the truth. What has Jesus done? Look to the cross. Grasp the gospel. What Jesus did for us beats any legalistic notion that social activism can save us from. Jesus came in the form of man to live amongst his creation, emptying himself from his power, to live, teach, and lead a perfect life, obedient to God, all the way to cross. Why? To break the curse of sin that has separated us from God since the fall of mankind. He is the second Adam. He is the Son of David. He is I Am. He is.
Our hope is that in wearing and promoting the new phrase, we can spark conversations that truly lead people to eternal salvation, not a role model.
Yes, Jesus is our role model, but he is so much more than that. If it were only about imitating him, then we are left to the discretion of imitating any good role model. We need a savior, and people need to know what he did for us and how they can have eternal life with our creator. And that is where our Christian Apparel comes into play. We create apparel that shares more than activism but salvation. We encourage every believer to be bold and wear Christ everywhere they go.