WWJD: Recapturing the Ethics of Jesus

wwjd-44507.jpg“What Would Jesus Do?”, the great Christian mantra of the mid- to late-90s could be found via the acronym WWJD attached to the wrist of millions of people around the world. Many people bought into it just as millions bear Livestrong Yellow bands on their wrists today. Many Christian leaders embraced it, many more decried it as cheap and commercialized (check out its commercialization here, try not to puke on your computer). Personally, God broke me for the ministry through the purple band that my mother had purchased for me, perhaps hoping it would have an effect upon me.

I decided to wear the wristband as I was running the lights for the youth camp our church was attending in June 1998. Overall, I thought the idea silly. To me, it was like asking “How far can I go?” before I commit a sin and it appeared to be legalistic. But my life was in reconstruction after a long civil war over the slavery of my soul to my worldly desires. I needed something, I needed Jesus to take over my life. (Can you here “Jesus take the wheel” playing in the background?)

I wasn’t a youth at the time, I was 20 years old, having completed two years of college with a 0.64 GPA. No, that is not a typo! The fall of my freshman year at Virginia Tech (yes, once a hokie, always a hokie!), I felt God calling me into ministry. But, in my immaturity, I valued the prospect of a lucrative career in computer engineering over obedience to the God-man who died for me. So, I ran. Two years later, I was broken, unable to trust in my own efforts any longer, and I looked down at my wrist as Clayton King preached on missions and According to John (since disbanded) sang their guts out to God. I wasn’t even the intended audience. Picture that!

As my heart was churning, as I read the gospel of Matthew between songs and sermons, I couldn’t help but think, “What would Jesus be doing?” Hey, Lifeway, Family Christian, CBD, whoever, lets make some bracelets–WWJBD? But getting back to the story, I realized the ethical legalism spawned by WWJD was missing the point. Jesus wouldn’t be wondering–should I see this movie or not, or should I date this girl or not? No, Jesus would be about His fathers business! He would be preaching, teaching, healing, helping, serving, loving, rebuking, correcting, resurrecting, going, sending–not wondering, confused about what is right or what is wrong. Though still very immature, needing a mentor and someone to guide my understanding, I walked forward and submitted to whatever it would take to be a minister like Jesus.

I have lost the path a few times along the way, distracted by my sin, my ambitions, or by the worries of the world, but Jesus has never forsaken me, and he is continuing to change me!

That change has risen to another level as of late. I was reminded of my days wearing my WWJD bracelet while reading Romans 7-8 and 1 Corinthians 6. Part of my journey has included a 10 year long struggle with pornography from the ages of 11-21. Ages 11-16 were my years of discovery, ages 17-19 were my years of wild abandon and ages 19-21 were my years of recovery. In all those years, no one, no preacher, no teacher, no friend, nobody ever said it would be possible to overcome. The subject was taboo, mentioned only occasionally in a well-meaning preachers diatribe against immorality. Interestingly, one foolish Surgeon General in the Clinton adminstration did speak out about the issue indirectly saying that masturbation could be a deterrent to abberant sexuality. So, we have the government saying its okay, and the church saying……(I think I hear crickets in the background, don’t you?). But the Bible is clear on the issue. It condemns sexual immorality, including pornography and masturbation, as a sin against the body, and hence against the triune God (1 Cor 6:12-20) and it offers healing for those sins (Hebrews 10:21-25) and the way to overcome them (Psalm 119:133; there are many other passages, but this Psalm aided me tremendously).

This past week, God reminded me of his claim on my physical body. My body is not my own. God not only saves from eternal hell, but he redeemed my physical body. I have been thinking about this for a little over two years now. It started with my thoughts on baptism.

Notice that the physical body is baptized as a visible sign of an eternal reality (Romans 6; Colossians 2). In Colossians, Paul tells us that our flesh was dead and uncircumcised, but Jesus has made us alive together with him. This is important, because the rest of the chapter and the beginning of chapter three Paul is urging us to be careful how we treat our physical bodies. In chapter two, he tells us that strict acetism is unwise because it will not deliver us from sin, while in chapter three he reminds us that our members, our physical body, is dead to sin, but is a renewed, New Self. Our baptism reminds us that our physical bodies have died to sin, but our physical bodies are raised to newness of life (Romans 6). The way we live our lives in our physical bodies is important to God.

Now comes 1 Corinthians 6. The context of the book is not widely debated. The church struggled with immorality, division, pride, arrogance, etc, etc, etc. But even in the worst possible context (reader, take hope in this), God does not reject his church, Paul is actually rather gentle with them, straightforward, but gentle. For this church, there is still hope!

Here’s the logic of the passage:

  • There is great freedom in Christ
  • Not everything we are free to do is actually good for us
  • The physical body was not given to us to be fed; some of our desires, including for food, but especially sexual, should be starved.
  • BECAUSE, THE BODY IS THE LORD’S!!!!
  • Our physical bodies are members of Christ (notice that he is not saying that we are members of Christ body–this metaphor comes at other places in scripture).
  • Our physical bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit.
  • Immorality is a sin against our physical bodies.
  • Our phsycial bodies do not belong to us but to God.
  • THEREFORE, GLORIFY GOD IN YOUR [PHYSICAL] BODY

Notice the Trinitarian formula in this passage–our bodies are Jesus’ body, our bodies are the Holy Spirit’s dwelling place, we glorify God (referring to the Father, possibly referring to the godhead as a whole) in our body.

Therefore, we should think about our body as not our own, but as actually Jesus body. In this, it is very important to think–What Would Jesus Do? As such, our physical presence is primarily important to the missio Dei. Our bodies are not for eating or for immorality, but for mission.

Since this is true, How does it change the way you live?

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2 Comments

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  1. i am young and this post has touched me… explain the feeling i have. at the skate park a kid said what would jesus do and my other friends txt signature is W.W.J.D. I think that was a sign so i searched it on google…this wat i found! thank you so much for this post… i have been praying maybee like 1 a week wich isnt enough. this has helped me alot…i appreciate it.

  2. wow that is really good man im going to be honnest i am a 17 year old kid and i am have the exact same problem and its tearing me up inside cause i have those urges and i just do it with out thinking and then when its over i think of how im being unclean and unholy and its tearing me up can you give me more adivse about how you got over this problem?

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