What Would Jesus Do?” “What Would Jesus Drive?” “What Would Jesus Drink?” Although becoming less popular today, such slogans have frequently been buzzwords in Christian circles.
In the 1990s the big question was, “What Would Jesus Do?” (WWJD). In facing decisions, struggles, temptations, or any other circumstance in life, one could determine what to do simply by answering this question. You simply need to follow the example of Jesus’ life.
In more recent years a new WWJD arose, “What Would Jesus Drive?” It originates from Christian environmentalist groups who oppose owning and driving SUV’s. Their aim is to produce guilt in the owners of such gas-guzzling and pollution-producing vehicles. The claim is that Jesus would not drive a SUV, for He would not want actively to destroy this planet or consume its natural resources.
An interesting precursor to these present-day movements was the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union in the early 1900s. These prohibitionists challenged people to ask the question, “What Would Jesus Drink?” Their claim, of course, was that He would not (and did not) drink anything alcoholic.
Most of these movements are fads that end up dying an early death. They take center stage for a while, then soon disappear. Only to be replaced, of course, by a new one. Which makes one wonder what will be next. Perhaps a campaign against obesity, with the question, “What Would Jesus Devour?”
One of the problems with these is that the question itself is absurd. The simple fact of the matter is that the Bible does not record Jesus facing all of the various situations we do. It simply cannot provide an answer to What Would Jesus Do, or Drink, or Drive. The only way to answer the question, then, is through speculation.
More serious is the fact that these movements are a mockery of the gospel. Such so-called “Christian” slogans cheapen and compromise the truth. They promote an external righteousness, for by doing certain things, one is supposedly able, in the end, to save himself (and the planet too, perhaps). More significant is that, instead of Jesus Christ being set forth as the Savior who died an atoning death by which He satisfied the justice of God for the sins of the elect, He is presented as being merely an example to follow, and that in frivolous issues such as driving and drinking.
What the child of God ought to consider is this: “What has Jesus done for me? And how shall I express my gratitude for what He has done? In one way. Not by considering what Jesus would or might do, but by considering what He tells me to do in His Word!”
Having said all this, our opposition to and rejection of the WWJD movements must not lead us to reject altogether the idea of Jesus being our example.
It is true that He is much more than an example. He is our Savior. He is that first and foremost. His chief purpose in coming to this earth was to save His church from sin. He suffered and died in our place to earn our righteousness before God and to attain eternal life for us. All of which means that our righteousness is not something we can earn by doing what Jesus did, but is ours only by imputation.
In addition to this, the Scriptures mention that Christ, as our Savior, also left us a powerful example of holiness. He could do this exactly because of His sinless perfection and blameless life. What we must remember, of course, is that this example is directly tied to His saving work. He saved us so that we might be holy. Christ’s suffering for us is the spiritual power that enables us to follow His example.
The Bible sets before us a few specific ways in which we are to follow Christ’s example. In John 13:15 we are admonished to follow His example of humble service to each other. In I John 2:6 we are commanded to follow His example of obedience to the law of God. And in I Peter 2:21we are instructed to follow the example He gave in suffering.
The latter is perhaps the most striking of these three. We are told that Christ suffered for us, and thereby left us “an example, that ye should follow his steps: Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously” (I Pet. 2:21-23).
The example of Jesus with regard to suffering is of utmost importance to us as pilgrims and strangers on this earth.
It is so because pilgrims must suffer in this life. God puts countless afflictions into our lives. In fact, with a view to our eternal good He often sends more of these on us than He does on the ungodly. But we also and especially suffer because we are Christians. We are hated as Christ was hated. We are reviled and persecuted because we confess His name. We suffer wrongfully. Men say all manner of evil against us falsely for Christ’s sake. And all of this will only intensify as the Lord brings us closer to the end of time.
In all this, we must be Christ-like pilgrims—Christ-like in how we bear the sufferings of this present life. Especially when we suffer as Christians. For Christ’s reaction to suffering was completely the antithesis to how the natural man reacts to suffering. Following His example sets us apart as pilgrims and strangers on this earth.
One way in which Christ is our example is that He willingly submitted to suffering. He knew that it came from the hand of God. He knew it was His lot in life. He expected it, and accepted it. He submitted to the will and way of His heavenly Father.
What makes this so striking is that Christ did not deserve to suffer. Suffering is the result of sin, and He was personally without sin. But He never uttered any questions or objections. He realized He was called to suffer, and to this will of God He submitted.
We often struggle to submit, for we convince ourselves that we should not receive suffering, or at least not so much of it. When the Lord makes us sick and brings us low we say, “Why me? Surely I don’t deserve this cancer, this stroke, this brain tumor, this imminent death!” When our house is broken into, or our car stolen, or all our possessions lost in a fire, we say, “What have I done to deserve this? Why didn’t this happen to my ungodly neighbor instead?” When our job and income are taken away because we refuse to work on the Lord’s day we say, “Why does this happen to me, and not to someone else?”
However, we have no right to expect less trouble in life. On account of our sin, the only proper expectation to have is more suffering. Can you honestly say that you have been so good and godly and upright that you have earned a life of ease? Have you loved God and the neighbor so perfectly that you deserve only good things from the hand of God, and never evils?
We are sinners who deserve the judgments God sends upon mankind. We deserve every sickness and disease there could possibly be. We deserve every earthly affliction. We deserve to be hated by the ungodly, and to suffer extremely at the hands of the wicked. If we deserve anything, we deserve our suffering in this life to be much, much worse.
If Christ, who did not personally deserve even a small taste of suffering, nevertheless expected and accepted it, so much the more ought we. Let Christ be our example in suffering—the example of submission to the will of God by accepting the suffering He faced. Christ’s response was this (Ps. 39:9): “I was dumb, I opened not my mouth; because thou didst it.” May we say and do likewise.
Another way in which Christ is an example is that He never tried to avoid suffering by means of deceit. There was no guile found in His mouth. He ruled His tongue, using it only to speak what was good and true. This does not mean that He said absolutely nothing. He certainly spoke up in defense of the name and honor of God. He certainly used every opportunity He could to bear witness to the truth of God.
But Christ Jesus did not speak using guile or deceit in order to avoid His sufferings. He always spoke the truth, and nothing but the truth. Men tried to find fault in what He said, but they could not. The only way they could condemn Him was to resort to false witnesses. He never lied, or held back some of the truth, so that He might be spared suffering. He was always honest, even though He knew such honesty would result in more suffering. Even when His own life was at stake, He did not try to avoid the awful death and suffering of the cross by deceit.
Christ is our example. We may not use deceit, or fail to testify of the truth and of our faith, in order to avoid suffering. If, for example, an unbeliever asks what you did on Sunday, you may not be silent, or tell half truths, so that you will not face ridicule for attending twice the worship of God. We may never turn to any form of dishonesty whatsoever in the hope of escaping the mockery of the ungodly. Follow in the steps of Christ.
Another aspect of Christ’s example in suffering is that He did not retaliate. When men reviled Him, He did not revile again. When men threatened Him, He did not threaten them in return.
The reviling and threatening happened throughout Christ’s life, but especially at the end. Countless names and accusations were thrown in His face. He was reviled on the cross by every element of society and of the church. Even those who just happened to be passing by mocked Him. No one held back in the abuse they directed against Him.
But Christ did not respond to them in the same way. He was not vengeful, trying to get back at them for what they had done to Him. He did not use the same kind of words as His enemies did. Instead, He did a most astounding thing while hanging on the cross, for He prayed, “Father, forgive them!”
Even more surprising is that Christ did not retaliate by using threats against His enemies. He did not even threaten to bring upon them the judgment of God that they deserved. This is significant, for if He had, these would not have been idle threats. He was the Son of God, who had the power to avenge Himself immediately of those who assaulted Him. He could have killed all His false accusers in a moment. But this He did not do.
We often fail to follow Christ’s example in this. If we suffer wrongfully at the hands of others, we are quick to retaliate. If we are mocked or ridiculed or threatened because of our faith, we are inclined to become angry, and to express it. We find a way to mock in return. We are quick to point out the faults and inconsistencies of those who ridicule us. And we feel justified in doing this because of how much hurt and anguish they have inflicted on us. We think it is acceptable to give them at least a little bit of what they gave us.
We are called to walk in Christ’s steps when we suffer as Christians. Let the ungodly speak falsely about you. Let them make your life difficult. Let them discriminate against you. Let them drag your name in the dirt. Endure it without becoming angry, without issuing threats, and without desiring or plotting to get even with those who hate and falsely accuse you.
Finally, we see in Christ’s example (as set forth in I Peter 2) that He did not take judgment into His own hands.
Jesus Christ certainly could have. He had the power as the Son of God to avenge Himself immediately of those who assaulted Him. But Christ left things in the hands of His Father in heaven. He knew God would avenge Him (as He will avenge all His people). He knew God would see to it that those who persecuted Him would get what they justly deserved. He did not avenge Himself, but left this to the righteous Judge of heaven and earth.
We must follow in His steps in this. We may not take judgment into our own hands. We may not even do so when it seems heaven is silent and God is not defending us. The wicked may appear to get away with things now, but God sees it all. One day He will surely give to those who persecute His people their just reward. They will not get away with anything when they face Him on judgment day. We need not throw up our arms in despair. We who are pilgrims and strangers on this earth have the sure hope that God will one day right all wrongs. “Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord” (Rom. 12:19). God, the righteous judge, will always judge righteously.
God’s Word encourages us to follow the example of Christ. Those who suffer with Him and as He did will also be glorified together with Him. Those who follow Christ through the way of suffering will also follow Him into glory. May that spur us on to be Christ-like pilgrims as we face the many sufferings of this life.