wwjd-bracelet

So what did Jesus do?

A popular trend in recent years has been the marketing of the moniker “WWJD” (for “What Would Jesus Do?”) on bracelets, T-shirts and so on. Certainly compared to some of the sentiments one sees on T-shirts these days, this is an appropriate slogan, and an excellent question to ask.

But following Jesus is about more than wearing a WWJD bracelet.

Its origins come from a best-selling novel by Charles Sheldon in 1899 called “In His Steps.” In a day when Michael Creighton and Robert Ludlum write the best sellers, it’s interesting to think that at the turn of the 20th Century the national best seller was written by a preacher. The language and style is a little old fashioned, as you might expect, and of course the characters don’t drive sports cars and SUV’s, or communicate by instant messaging, but the subject matter is as up to date as this morning’s Fox News report.

In the story, preacher Henry Maxwell, challenges his congregation to pledge for a whole year to do nothing without first asking the question: “What would Jesus do,” based on 1 Peter 2:21, where we are told that “Christ suffered” for us, leaving us “an example,” that we should “follow in his steps.”

But following Jesus is about more than wearing a WWJD bracelet.

Christ left us “an example.” The word translated “example” comes from the word stencil, the sort used by a grammar school teacher to guide students as they learned to write. It was to be traced, or copied over. Jesus modeled Christian living, and we are supposed to follow the outlines of his life for our own lifestyle.

But following Jesus is about more than wearing a WWJD bracelet.

Jesus’ “stencil” was in fact his footprints. We are to “follow in his steps.” Once, long ago, Peter had heard the summons of Jesus himself to leave his fishing nets and follow him (Matthew 4:18-20), but he had not always followed Jesus as closely as he might. Peter followed Jesus “at a distance to the high priest’s courtyard” (Matthew 26:58). Mindful of his failure, he urges us to follow Jesus exactly – in his very steps! So we must do more than make great claims of being Christ’s followers. We will need to do some walking, too.

But following Jesus is about more than wearing a WWJD bracelet.

Peter is not calling on us to put on a WWJD bracelet. He is calling on us to do something more!

Jesus did not receive the crown of glory without first receiving the crown of thorns. Should we expect anything less? Jesus taught that we were “blessed” when men “revile and persecute” us, and “say all kinds of evil against” us falsely for Christ’s sake (Matthew 5:11,12).

You know the popular poem, “Footprints in the Sand,” based on the passage in 1 Peter 2:21. In it the writer looks back at his life as if he had left footprints in the sand. As he and Jesus review his life, he notices that there are in fact two sets of prints, not one. “Whose are they?” the speaker asks. “Those,” the Lord explains, “are mine. I was walking with you.”

Then he notices some moments that were hard, the lowest of his life, and he notices something new. There is only one set of footprints there. Somewhat upset he turns to Jesus and asks, “In my toughest times, there is only one set of footprints. Why, when I needed you most, were you not there?”

Jesus responds that during those tough times he lifted his follower on his shoulders and carried him through, thus leaving only one set of footsteps – that of Jesus. It’s a wonderful sentiment, and expresses an idea that is absolutely true, namely that Jesus will never leave us or forsake us.

But it is not what 1 Peter 2:21 says. The question that Peter asks is not whether Jesus will follow in our footsteps, whether he will abandon us or stay with us all the way. We know that he will.

The question of 1 Peter 2:21 is quite different. Will we follow in his steps? Will we be faithful to him? Not only when times are good, but also in the tough times, will we follow in his steps still?

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Stan Mitchell

Stan has preached since 1976, in Zimbabwe, California, Texas and Tennessee. He serves as preacher for the Red Walnut Church of Christ in Bath Springs, TN. He is currently Professor of Bible at Freed-Hardeman University. He is married to the former Marjorie McCarthy, and has one daughter, Tracy Watts. He is the author of four books: The Wise Get Wiser, the Foolish More Foolish: The Book of Proverbs, Give the Winds a Mighty Voice: Our Worship in Song, and Equipping the Saints for Ministry. He has recently published another book, "Will Our Faith Have Children: Developing Leadership in the Church for the Next Generation.

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