What would Jesus do?

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth... For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.” John 1:14 and 16 (ESV)

When I was in college back in 1985, I read a book titled, In His Steps, by Charles Monroe Sheldon. It’s a classic that was published in 1896, and like all classics, its message is timeless. The main character of the story is a pastor named Reverend Henry Maxwell who goes through a faith-arresting experience that causes him to question the authenticity of his faith. As a result, he makes the following one-year resolution that before making any decisions, he will ask himself, “What would Jesus do?” and then do it no matter what the cost. He invites his congregation to join him in this challenge for one year. The rest of the novel is basically about what happens in their lives as they resolve to do as Jesus would do. I think it’s a good read, and I recommend it.

However, there’s one major assumption that I don’t like about the book. It’s that the author assumes that if people ask themselves the question, “What would Jesus do?” before making a decision, then they’ll be able to correctly discern the answer for their particular situation. Unfortunately, that’s an incorrect assumption.

Although a person might make a better decision if they ask themselves the question “What would Jesus do?” before they react to their circumstances; the opposite can also happen. Regrettably, people can, with all sincerity, make a worse decision by asking themselves that same question.

The truth is that it all depends on if the person asking the question has a truthful and accurate picture of who Jesus is. If their beliefs about Jesus are inaccurate or wrong, then their answers to what he would do will also be wrong.

The apostle John writes that Jesus’ glory and who he was was full of grace and truth. In other words, if John were to describe what stood out most about Jesus, it would have been his grace and truth. Jesus was characterized by steadfast love and faithfulness. He embodied unfailing, committed love and favor for people regardless of their background, AND he also spoke truth and truthfully to people regardless of their background. Jesus’ grace did not compromise his truth, and his truth never nullified his grace.

But what does Jesus’ grace look like and how is it lived out in relationships?  And what’s the truth that Jesus reveals to us about Old Testament Scripture, true love, humanity’s nature and the meaning of life? These questions and more are necessary for us to pursue if we are to intimately know Jesus and become like him in word and deed.

As we journey through the Gospel of John on Sunday mornings, my hope and prayer is that our understanding of Jesus’ grace and truth will grow deeper and wider so that we gain a clearer vision of who Jesus is. And as our vision of him grows in clarity, we’ll be able to respond rightly to the question, “What would Jesus do?”

Kenny Wada