Not to long ago most church youth groups had 20 somethings in baggy jeans with obligatory holes in the knees, faded t-shirts, unruly hair, at least one ear adorned with a piercing, and a plastic bracelet on one wrist or a leather anklet with beads that had the letters “W W J D”. “Christian” fads come and go like the hula hoop. The “What would Jesus Do” trinkets adorned the shelves of every Christian book store in America for about a decade and you can still see them with regularity.
Some how there is the idea that imitating Jesus in a given situation makes you “cool”, or perhaps even viewed by Jesus in a more favorable way. For some reason I never considered a “Honk if you love Jesus” bumper sticker on a rusty Ford Falcon to be the marker of a mature Christian.
I’m not saying Jesus wasn’t a radical. I mean, he for sure was swimming upstream in his society. The church folks were not very fond of his way of doing things. Both the gospels of Mark and Luke record a snippet of Jesus’ unconventional ministry model.
“And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” And when Jesus heard it, he said to them,”Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous,but sinners.” (Mark 2:16,17)
“And the Pharisees and their scribes grumbled at his disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” And Jesus answered them,“Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” (Luke 5:30-32)
“You claim to be clergy and hang with the dregs of society? Hardly!” The religious people kept missing the point. They just didn’t understand why Jesus didn’t conform to the church going people. Both his message and his audience, his motives and his mission, were completely at odds with conventional wisdom.
Aren’t you glad we are not like the Pharisees? We know who the sinners are and we are going after them. They live on the south side of town in the high crime area. We take food to them once a month and have a ministry to help them shake their addictions and find jobs. And by golly we tell every one of them about Jesus!
That is commendable, good for us! But I have a question. What about that family who shows up at church every Sunday dressed to the nines? He owns two small businesses, pays a mortgage of $2200 a month on a sprawling rancher, and she volunteers at the homeless shelter twice a month. Are they being made to feel comfortable? Have they been told that if they acknowledge some facts about Jesus, are baptized and work on some behavior modification they will have fellowship with God and get to go to heaven?
Or, have they been warned that their sins have offended a holy God and that they are dead men walking who are the objects of God’s sure wrath against sin? Have we been honest about their critical state and announced the good news that Christ has atoned for their sins and commands them to repent and receive him and live only for him at any cost?
What would Jesus do? Well, he would be honest with people. He would tell people there is a cure for their sickness but he would also tell them they are terminally ill. A driver who doesn’t know the bridge is out up ahead is not likely to slow down. If you care about people you put up a warning sign, “Stop! Bridge out Ahead!”
Christianity is not an alternative lifestyle, it is not a religious experience to make your life happy. The gospel of Jesus is the announcement that you can escape certain death, you don’t have to perish, you don’t have to suffer the wrath of an angry God against sin. The gospel is not good news to anyone who is not aware of the bad news.
What would Jesus do? He would love people enough to tell them the truth. He would warn them to repent from the sham of better morality, church membership, and religious ritual, and trust his saving atonement to make them new, to free them from the bondage of Satan, and to live in freedom as children of the God of heaven, safe and secure in His marvelous grace.
It is good and right to give people the message of John 3:16. But we must press on them the weight of John 3:18 “…but whoever does not believe is condemned already…”. Are there those we shake hands with every week who are condemned and don’t know it?
What would Jesus do?