But Really, WWJD?

I wrote this essay not long after November 24th, for a class I took last semester.

Memories of my adolescence are littered with the phrase “what would Jesus do?” Despite my family’s relative areligiosity I feel like that phrase was everywhere. On brightly colored bracelets and bookmarks my friends always had, on billboards near my home town, spoken over and over again whenever someone didn’t know what to do or when someone else had done something they disapproved of. I never knew how we were supposed to know what Jesus would do, I’d never read the Bible or really heard it preached. All I ever really heard in that phrase was “whatever you’re doing, stop that. Jesus was perfect and you are not.” Everything I heard about what Jesus would do was in the negative. In my world people talked much more about what Jesus wouldn’t do than about what he would do, and when they talked about what he would do it was still mostly judgement.

I’ve been thinking about that phrase a lot lately. I’ve been thinking about what it would really be like to live your life in emulation of what Jesus would do. Thinking about what it would mean to take seriously Jesus’ life, work, and suffering as a human. As Jordan makes so clear, many Christians don’t ever really take Jesus seriously as a human. He’s difficult to handle if he is fully human, his life makes difficult demands on our comfortable lives if we take it seriously. Christ is so much easier to handle. We can build fountains to glorify a god, but we have to give a thirsty man water. We have to accept that we might be culpable in his thirst. What would Jesus do?

It was a Monday and I had plans. I was going to get out of my house and work on a project, be productive. It’s a little astonishing how often my plans of productivity are destroyed by the moral failings of my country. Early in the day I heard that the Grand Jury decision about Michael Brown’s murder would be released that day. I’ll admit that my first thought was that I had too much to do for everything to go to hell on that particular day, but, of course it did anyway. I spent the whole day sure of what would come, knowing there would be no indictment, collecting and sharing essays, and determining where I would meet up with people to head out to protest that evening. I didn’t stop to ask myself what exactly I was doing and if I was sure I wanted to do it until I was waiting for a bus to Oakland and writing the number to the National Lawyers Guild on each of my arms. My only actual response to myself was, “don’t just talk about it, be about it” and so I went. What would Jesus do?

From the 6PM announcement until my 1:30AM arrival back in my apartment things are mostly a blur. I can remember a timeline, and I could point out specific events if asked to, but the overall effect isn’t about those details. I made a choice to “be about it” and then I kept making that choice. I made that choice until my heels literally bled, and then I kept going. There is a clear memory of marching behind the crowd, carrying a banner with a couple of UU clergy members and trying to keep some distance between the crowd and the cops, and realizing how badly my feet hurt. Earlier in the day I had seen a picture of Michael Brown’s father crying to the heavens, and had heard that his mother’s cries could be heard above the protests in Ferguson. I hurt, but they and so many other Black families and individuals hurt worse. I couldn’t end their suffering, no amount of me out in the street yelling my lungs out would actually bring their son back or end their pain, but at least I could be with them. My soul hurt and my body hurt. The pain of the world was in me, and I was going to push through. I was dedicated to suffering with. What would Jesus do?

I didn’t realize until I looked at my shoes the next day that I had bled. I didn’t cry until I was in the shower that Tuesday morning. That Tuesday I kept getting hit with it. With what had happened, with what keeps happening, with what the world demands of me. My whole body ached, my heels hurt every time anything touched them and sometimes when nothing did. For the first time ever Jesus on the cross made sense to me. What would Jesus do? Suffer with the families of those most hurt by our racist “justice” system, flip over the money changers’ tables, shed his blood for his belief in justice and liberation.


39 thoughts on “But Really, WWJD?

  1. Awesome personal experience! Thank You for Sharing! Loved this!

  2. Heather Cai says:

    Interesting post! Love these sentenses: “We can build fountains to glorify a god, but we have to give a thirsty man water. We have to accept that we might be culpable in his thirst. What would Jesus do?”
    I guess you may like to read the first bit of my first finished English novel:

  3. Heather Cai says:

    If you do, any kind of remark is highly appreciated. 🙂

  4. Godwill The Blogger says:

    Awesome post

  5. PipTanager says:

    Wow. Thank you for writing this, it gave me chills.

    I, too, have been feeling the aches of the world, the obvious announcement that we ARE all deeply connected, to each other and the earth. Maybe it’s that I haven’t learned how to grieve healthfully yet, but I need a window of light to cut through deepening cynicism and fear for our planet, for humanity.

    How can we express it? What is our form of righteous table turning?

    Jesus WAS radical. If he’s asking us to be that radical, we are going to STAND OUT in a crowd. Unless we communicate and do it all together…. forming our own economy and currency… Growing greens and tomatoes in our yard… KNOWING our neighbors and literally SINGING and DANCING with them…

    This is my vision. I’m ready for action

  6. Walter says:

    Jesus loved himself. This means he accepted his humanity and the way he was. With this self-love he could extend love to others and not fear the risks he took for himself. Why? Because loving ourselves means wanting happiness and true happiness can’t happen if suffering surrounds us. Our selfishness is the true driver of self-less behaviors. When we say “I can’t stand that, it hurts too much to see that injustice” we act for the best of others but driven by our own suffering.

  7. I too found WWJD a form of condemnation from the “department store window” Christians. The window may be beautifully designed and intriguing your mind into fantasizing about having everything in that window, yet once you step inside you realize that store is full of either useless ugly merchandise or expensive stuff you wouldn’t want to sit on. I flipped my way of thinking for my own personal way of thought to stop those condemning words in my head. On my own walk and journey when faced with ANY situation I ask myself instead, “what does Jesus want ME to do”. Screw what others thought, THEY don’t matter. Even if the internal answer is uncomfortable or hard to face, I find it the best answer to follow. Because if I take the easy answer it means I’m not growing, I’m choosing the easy way and that my walk with Jesus was not meant to be easy. He suffered for my sins and the sins of the world, He took on more pain than humanly imaginable. So while my quandary I may be faced with is nothing compared to his and possibly many others. I still make bad decisions though, I don’t ever want to strive to be perfect like Jesus, way too much pressure for me to handle. Excellent read, very thought provoking.

  8. I just now read WWJD. As a senior citizen I have seen churchs digress from crowded, all ages, to just people who look like me. Younger people have no interest in what Jesus wouldn’t do and many of then wouldn’t return to church to hear that. What Jesus would do and how he would do it is much more important. He would physically touch people, clean or not so clean, accept people as they are and love them. Some people cling to the words in the gospels. I prefer the actions. These require effort, caring and love. Judging by our political climate as displayed by people today Jesus would have to change substantially.

  9. Very well written religious piece. I’ve always heard that at church, at school, at home… It got to the point where I wouldn’t think WWJD but Would Jesus Do That? WJDT?!? It’s a thought that I contemplate quite often

  10. pricillalove says:

    Good. If you can’t find an answer. Just look up and ask him.

  11. Your exactly right I think Jesus would have suffered with the families. Great post! Really enjoyed it.

  12. Very thought-provoking; great read!

  13. Amie Sparks says:

    Indeed, Jesus wouldn’t sit home and send condolence messages on social media, nor would he think about it and say ‘oh, well,’ he was an action man.
    Thank you, it was a good use of my time, reading your post

  14. knoel81 says:

    This is really good. I am guessing from a couple of lines in the essay that we probably have completely different views of the world, but this is still an incredibly good piece (I hope that sounds like the complement that I mean it too). Humans truly connect through empathy and compassion & that is what I read in this piece. I am proud to be a sister in faith with people like you who truly see the pain of others and more importantly the suffering Christ endured on the Cross as a call to action not a call to judgement. 🙂

  15. jpimbo says:

    Good subject to write about for our times. I appreciated your feelings about the murder and the family. I know you are a truly compassionate and nonjudgmental person, not taking sides. Somehow that is comforting.

  16. garrettkitt says:

    This is amazing opened my eyes. Thank you!

  17. Just two incidents from the life of Jesus.

    When Jesus went out He saw a great multitude; and He was moved with compassion for them, and healed their sick.

    When it was evening, His disciples came to Him, saying, “This is a deserted place, and the hour is already late. Send the multitudes away, that they may go into the villages and buy themselves food.”

    Disciples: “Send them away.”
    Jesus: “They don’t have to go away. You feed them.”
    Disciples: “We have only 5 loaves and 2 fish. Not enough to feed such a huge crowd.”
    Jesus: “Bring them to Me.”

    He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, He blessed and broke and gave the loaves to the disciples; and the disciples gave to the multitudes. So they all ate and were filled, and they took up twelve baskets full of the fragments that remained.

    (Ref.Matthew 14).

    Jesus: “Come to me…I will give you rest. Learn from Me…you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11).
    Jesus: “whoever comes to me I will never turn away.” (John 6).

  18. Honestly, this has humbled me quite a bit to think of Jesus as a human and having suffered all he had for us as a man. Great simple reminder!
    Please feel free to check out my page if you would like.

  19. I absolutely love what you said about “being about it,” not just “talking about it.” So often, we do just talk, talk, talk… rather than DOING anything or investing in our beliefs through action. At the church I attend while I’m visiting my parents, the idea of what Jesus does and what He expects us to do in times of others’ trial was brought up, and it totally resonates with what you’re saying here… sometimes, the only thing we can do is to bear another’s burden, just BE there for them, WITH them. I also hadn’t thought of the WWJD in the way you mentioned… Thanks for the read! 🙂

  20. Bro. This was a really great read.

  21. gloriahaven says:

  22. A very thought provoking post. I wonder what Jesus was like in real life. Mark, the oldest gospel, was written 40 years after his death, so who knows what was lost in the interveing years.

  23. estellereddy says:

    This post has reached me so deeply its unbelievable. I was one of those youths with the WWJD bracelets and signs and the older I’ve become the more I’ve been looking for people to join me in helping the thirsty get their drink if water. You’ve basically put in a nutshell my heart. Thank you for your sacrifice.

  24. Really awesome. Thank you for sharing.

  25. InDyingLight says:

    He would understand.
    He would help others to understand.

  26. Ivan says:

    That’s a great piece of work!!

  27. Karen says:

    Thank you for being Jesus when we need him most to point out how socially unjust we are to our siblings of color.
    I pray your heals heal and strengthen.

  28. I often wonder why christian blogs receive small numbers of comments and likes. I realise that just as Jesus said ” though they have eyes, they do not see”. With writers like you we can all evangelise. The world Will Come to know what Jesus would do. God bless You ma’am.

  29. ebenleslie says:

    God bless you for this lovely insight

  30. jobleyy says:

    Awesome..I just don’t know how often we ask ourselves the question of what would Jesus do?

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