What Would Jesus Do?

Christians presume everything Jesus did was perfect, or at least really good. Except for Max, most of us are good with that. A friend posted a sincere musing on Facebook the other day.

As we say “What Would Jesus Do?” remember, while he was gentle and loving and accepting and forgiving – when he found people doing wrong at the Temple he overturned tables and drove people out with a whip. And he criticized the scribes and Pharisees, calling them hypocrites. Oh, and he killed that fig tree that was not bearing fruit. So … what indeed would He do in the face of some issues and some people’s actions today?

Human beings, perhaps especially believers, are somewhat less “perfect” in applying this principles of WWJD. I posted my opinion there:

He would be gentle not because it was personally safe, and angry only when there was no personal pleasure in it at all.

I was thinking about this topic because with caucusing tomorrow in the state where most of my Facebook friends are still located, my feed is starting to look like Iowa communications media, and I thought I left the January politicking far, far behind last summer. Some want heads to roll. Lots of whips are out, along with weapons even mightier than the sword.

Quite often I see John 2:13ff cited. Not as much as John 15:12-13. The question seems less WWJD, but How Would Jesus Love. HWJL. That new jumble of letters won’t get the press the former did. People just don’t want to be laying down their lives.

At times, WWJD is sort of a crutch. It lets people be merciful without feeling like a wussy, and vindictive without conceding they enjoy whipping people too much. Dissatisfied with being a small cog in a moral machine, some of us want to be the architect of justice. Maybe a scattered few of us can be that. I suspect the virtue of prudence is somewhat underutilized by people advocating for the whips and tipped-over tables.


About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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16 Responses to What Would Jesus Do?

  1. Liam says:

    The prudential companion to HWJL is “Observe where and how your ego is acting out/up.”

  2. Atheist Max says:

    “At times, WWJD is sort of a crutch.”

    I recognize frequent commenters of this forum are probably very fine, sensitive and intelligent people. You would not be discussing these things otherwise. Unfortunately, what I am about to say won’t be welcomed here, nor perhaps believed. But it is true and it needs to be said.

    I lived by WWJD for many years. I would have agreed with every “good” Christian who claimed Jesus was the pinnacle of love, wisdom, civility and transcendent insight. As long as that is your interpretation of Jesus…you may be more likely to aspire to those things in your life. It does not prove or disprove the existence of a real Jesus. But it doesn’t do much harm most of the time.

    But there are no checks and balances in religion. That is one of its dangers. However one deals with Jesus one is absolutely free of personal responsibility. If you validate the idea of WWJD you also validate horrible behavior at the direction of the same god.

    “Love your neighbor” (Leviticus) CAN MEAN the same thing as “Avoid them… make them ashamed” (Paul)
    I have learned that this is a nightmarish recipe.

    • Todd says:

      “But there are no checks and balances in religion. That is one of its dangers.”

      I can’t speak for religions outside of Christianity and Judaism, of which I have no experience. I can’t say I recognize your brand of Christianity, Max. There are innumberable checks and balances for people who are *not* employing a lone ranger kind of religion. My checks and balances include my wife, my spiritual director, my faith community, and a few select friends whose counsel I trust.

      • Atheist Max says:


        “My checks and balances include my wife, my spiritual director, my faith community, and a few select friends whose counsel I trust.”

        As much as I like and prefer your approach to religion, Jesus never recommended that approach. He never says, “Discuss proper observance amongst your friends to be sure you are being civilized about this religion of ours”

        By the way, Ted Cruz and Jerry Falwell would likely offer similar responses to yours: Consultations with wife, spiritual director, faith community….and it leads them to all sorts of hideous, immoral conclusions which you can read about by yourself.

        Those checks and balances are only as good as the people who choose what they are.
        Atheism works in exactly the same way. Fortunately, most people choose wisely whether they are Atheist or Christian. But only Religion puts blatantly immoral options on the table:
        “make them ashamed” – Paul

        As a Christian I unwittingly placed the Jesus template over my decisions to validate them or test them. But the Jesus template is only as good as the person who constructs it from the contradictory raw materials of the Gospels. My template was my own construction.

        Jesus offers no checks and balances himself. The danger comes from believing they exist within the religion.

      • Todd says:

        Max, all I can say is that I’m not a fundamentalist. I don’t hang on every literal word of the Bible and I clearly don’t refrain from doing things not listed there. Jesus didn’t tell people to go start blogs, and obviously I’m disobedient on that point in your summation of the universe.

        At some point, Christian believers do well to grow up and listen to the prompting of the Holy Spirit through the means given to us in the natural universe: spouses, friends, communities, mentors, and the like.

      • Atheist Max says:


        You are validating the real crutch in this discussion.
        When people say “What would Jesus Do?” they really mean
        “What would the Holy Spirit want me to do?”
        Because unlike the Father and the Son, the Holy Spirit is not on record and has no parameters. Deliberately vague, it is a blank slate – like the blank chip in on a scrabble board. One can project anything onto it and it becomes the missing piece to any puzzle. Yet it has no heft of its own and is entirely subjective – the ultimate oracle.

        The Holy Spirit is the perfect crutch – and again, no checks and balances no matter how many people one consults.
        One is back where one started.

        Jesus did instruct you to write a blog (Mark 16:15)
        He also told you not to write a blog (Matthew 6:1)

        Thanks for jousting a little with me on this subject. I mean no harm.

      • Todd says:

        “When people say ‘What would Jesus Do?’ they really mean
        ‘What would the Holy Spirit want me to do?’”

        It’s still my choice. Your Christianity is still unrecognizable to me.

  3. Jen says:

    I actually despise the Narnia Chronicles, especially “Last Battle” for the treatment of Susan. But the quote about Aslan not being safe is pretty insightful these days.

    • Todd says:

      My least favorite book of the bunch. As a boy, Susan Pevensie and Arrietty Clock were my literary crushes. Book Seven and Spiller were such disappointments.

      • Ehh, I think book seven is better than Voyage of the Dawn Treader, aka, Too Much Time on a Ship. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and The Silver Chair are my favorites.

        Never got into The Borrowers though.

      • Jen says:

        Allegedly there was supposed to be another book focusing on Susan after the events of “Last Battle.”

  4. Dick Martin says:

    Todd: Your statement: “At some point, Christian believers do well to grow up and listen to the prompting of the Holy Spirit through the means given to us in the natural universe: spouses, friends, communities, mentors, and the like.” This is you thru and thru. The Holy Spirit never speaks to True Christians through the natural Universe . The natural man can only understand Natural things not Spiritual things. The natural man thinks that spiritual things are foolishness. You have forgotten the word of God; it states that the word is truth; Jesus is truth; and the Holy Spirit is the only three sources of truth.
    1 Corinthians 1:20-21(NKJV)
    Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?
    For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.
    1 Corinthians 3:18-19(NKJV)
    Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you seems to be wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise.
    For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their own craftiness”; I recall you telling me you study the Scriptures every day. obviously you don’t follow when it speaks to you. you wouldn’t make such statements that contradict the precious words of our God. Dick.

    • Todd says:

      You received your inspiration, Dick, through the natural universe: You heard the Word with your ears. You read the Word on the printed page: plant fibers and ink, metal typeset, all produced by divinely created human hands.

      To be clear, I’m not talking about “wisdom of the world.” This is about how God chooses to communicate to people: through our senses, imagination, and the various substances of the universe. Even if God chooses to inspire you directly into your intellect and will, your brain is still part of the created universe.

  5. Dick Martin says:

    If I listened to the natural vibes of todays intellectual crowd; I would fall for : Apes and trees and rocks are our ancestors, Babies are a glob of tissue , Allah is God and Islam believers will go to Heaven as the Catholics teach. Even changing the Ten commandments; deleting and adding to make it read different. ETC. all is Natural wisdom of which the natural man believes. yes you think that Nature can teach, guide, that we can learn by studying those things; but they are all not trust worthy.
    1 Corinthians 2:6-14(NKJV)
    However, we speak wisdom among those who are mature, yet not the wisdom of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing.
    But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory,
    which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
    But as it is written: “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, Nor have entered into the heart of man The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”
    But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God.
    For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God.
    Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God.
    These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual.
    But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.

    • Todd says:

      Dick, you can indeed listen for today’s intellectuals talking about things. You haven’t really addressed my point that it is your eyes, ears, and brain that have served as the conduit for your reception of the Word, and indeed, these things are all part of God’s created universe. So I will accept that you have nothing more to say to the point of how God chooses to communicate with most of us most of the time.

      Otherwise, I see nothing of my approach to Christian spirituality in what you criticize, and conclude we have nothing to say to each other today.

  6. Dick Martin says:

    Perfect conclusion to a natural man’s; we have nothing to say to each other today. God is looking for someone who knows who they ARE- in HIM ; not what you think you’ve achieved from your own efforts. It does say ” Post Comments”.

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