When I first read the book “What Would Jesus Do” by Charles M. Sheldon, I must have been in my very early teens. For me, it was a giant leap forward in how I processed my Christianity. Growing up in a traditional Christian community, religious thinking was all around me. And as traditional as these Christians were, they took their faith seriously.
I learned a lot about what Christian living is from those good people. I also got the chance once in a while to scratch my head, trying to understand why somebody did that. And that head scratching probably increased with the reading of “What Would Jesus Do”.
I had a growing understanding of who Jesus was and now I was armed with a practical question that put skin on Christianity for me. And often what I saw really didn’t make sense to me. I couldn’t for the life of me see Jesus do what they did. But when they explained what they did from the letters Paul wrote, some of the reasoning made some sense. But still, I couldn’t always connect the dots.
Now of course, asking what Jesus would do is only as effective as the accuracy of your perception of who Jesus is, so for a young fellah, there was still lots to be added in my understanding of who Christ was and why He did what He did. And so the answers to the questions sometimes change with maturity. But honestly, I am sometimes surprised at how effective the question proved in my discipleship.
I took that question very seriously. And I still do. It has often put skin, sandals, and heart into my understanding of what being a Christian means. Even now that I am older, there are times when some Christian teaching that sounds so right, feels so different than Jesus acts.
Now I see it as an invitation to live in that tension between my perception of what Jesus would do and my understanding of the accepted Christian doctrine in question. And I have found that to be the place where the Holy Spirit teaches me. In the honest I don’t know moments.
I believe that Jesus walked this earth in a revelation of how God intended man to live. And, truth be told, I see a lot of discrepancy between how I live, and how Jesus lived. But discipleship means to follow Christ. To follow His actions, to imitate His love. So obviously my understanding of the Scriptures Paul, Peter, Mark, Luke and the other disciples preached is still incomplete.
Am I going to be satisfied with my experiences as a Christian or am I going to let the example Christ left behind challenge me for real? Am I going to take Him at His Word?
For me, asking what would Jesus do always caused me to imagine Jesus walking right here beside me right now, and watching Him respond to the people I meet, or the situations I wonder about. If Jesus put on His sandals and walked with you right where you are at now, what would He do?
It is also a question I ask, when I wonder how Jesus would respond to me. If He were right here sitting with me in this room, how would He feel about me? What would He say to me? And I have found Him to be overwhelmingly graceful.