I wear a bracelet on my wrist with four letters: WWJD—What Would Jesus Do? This saying has become a guiding principle for many Christians. For me it serves as a moral compass, helping me apply abstract elements of my Christian faith to the practical questions I face each day.
The WWJD movement started in 1989 when the youth group at Calvary Reformed Church in Holland, Michigan, studied Charles Sheldon's 1896 novel, In His Steps. In the novel, parishioners preface every thought and action with "What would Jesus do?" and begin to see the difference it makes. Calvary's youth took Sheldon's model to heart and made up colorful woven bracelets to wear as a tangible reminder of that powerful question. Soon people throughout their community were wearing the bracelets, and it mushroomed from there. By the late '90s, the letters wwjd could be found on a multitude of books, T-shirts, and other Christian merchandise. To date, an estimated 14 million bracelets have been sold.
But the message of wwjd should not be taken for granted due to overexposure. As simple as it seems, sometimes the question—What would Jesus do?—still leaves me wondering. Consider these scenarios:
• I'm hustling out the door to church with the family in tow. Pulling out of the garage, I glance in the rearview mirror and see my neighbor across the street. She's working alone to clear her yard of debris from a recent storm. A thought races through my mind: Stop the car. Go back inside, and change your clothes. Skip church today, and prove to your neighbor you love her. What would Jesus do?
• With lots of neighbors coming and going, we've had many opportunities to build strategic kingdom relationships. But for the first time, our new neighbors are two men in a "domestic partnership." We face a quandary: If we take them the same housewarming gift we've always given new neighbors, are we condoning their lifestyle? Or are we being "friends of sinners" (see Matt. 11:19)? What would Jesus do?
• I've been setting aside money for the construction of a new ministry center at our church. We're reaching people for Christ, and the expansion is necessary. But on the day I intend to write my check, I discover that an unemployed friend is in danger of losing his house. What would Jesus do?
First Peter 2:21 says that Jesus left us "an example, that [we] should follow in his steps." So, it's admirable and biblical to ask "What would Jesus do?" in the decisions we face each day.
However, this hypothetical question presupposes we have already answered another equally important, yet less obvious, question: What did Jesus do? If we don't know what Jesus did in his life, how can we expect to guess what he would do in ours? I looked at the four gospels with these questions in mind and discovered seven priorities that guided Jesus:
1. He sought the Father
Jesus demonstrated intimacy with God by seeking him continually in prayer. Forty-five times the gospels tell us that Jesus went alone to pray. Every aspect of his life and ministry was saturated with prayer.
Mark 1 gives us a glimpse of Jesus early in his ministry. His life was swirling with people, needs, and opportunities. Jesus ministered around the clock. Still, he would make time to commune with the Father and concentrate on his purposes. He might sleep less or work less, but he would find time to pray.