What Would Jesus Do?

What would Jesus Do?  This phrase became very popular in the 1990’s and had the power of merchandising behind it.  Christian Rock bands made songs by the title, T-shirts were made, and a bracelet that simply read “WWJD” was all the rage.  Jesus is our ultimate example. By seeking to better understand Jesus Christ we can benefit from the Bible’s teaching that Jesus is our genuine example.

Imitating Christ/What would Jesus Do?

In imitating Christ we are just not imitating a man, but the incarnate Son of God who was the sacrifice for our sin.  Medieval writer and theologian Thomas Kempis puts it this way,

“By these words of Christ we are advised to imitate His life and habits, if we wish to be truly enlightened and free from all blindness of heart. Let our chief effort, therefore, be to study the life of Jesus Christ [1].”

What Would Jesus Do

Many writers have discussed imitating Christ, but there are several passages in scripture that describe this.  Some of them even record Jesus saying those very words.  The Lord said in John 13:15, “ For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you.”  Paul also wrote about Christ being our example in Philippians 2:4-11, the writer of the epistle to the Hebrews echoes this in Hebrews 12:1-6, and Peter writes about it in 1 Peter 2:21-23.

The passage in 1 Peter is especially clear as Peter writes in 1 Peter 2:21, “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you should follow in his steps.”  If one truly lives for Christ, repents, and believes what Christ and his church teaches then he will seek to imitate Christ.

Liberal Theology Takes Hold

During the 19th century, and into the 20th, liberal theology had started to gain a foothold within Christianity.  This especially happened within Protestantism, but Catholicism was not immune.  Liberal theologians believed that Christianity had to adapt or die, and in doing so several key doctrines were denied.

Liberal theology can be identified with denial of biblical inspiration and rejection of dogmas such as the Trinity or the Deity of Christ, and denial of the virgin birth just to name a few.. In 1897 Charles Sheldon wrote a novel titled In His Steps, and it challenged the very foundations of the liberalism that was running rampant.

To date the Christian fiction novel has sold over 50,000,000 copies, and though it is not a catholic book, it coincided with the anti-modernist movement that was springing up in the Catholic church at the time  This was very appealing before World War I as it was easy to read and cut to the heart of liberal theology.  Charles Sheldon writes, “giving illustrations from the life and teachings of Jesus to show how faith in the Christ helped to save men because of the pattern or character He displayed for their imitation [2].

It seemed, though it had been coincidental, that evangelicals and Catholics realized the inherit risk that liberal theology posed.  If we compromise the basic tenants of the Christian faith it is a slippery slope that has no end.  The result is progressive Christianity which is really another gospel.  To Be clear those basic tenants of Christianity are found fully in the Catholic Church.  The slow decent into liberal Christianity began with the reformation.

Look To Jesus

What Would Jesus Do?  By asking this one has the potential to become a better disciple of Christ.  Jesus gives us the ultimate example of how to live the Christian life. We can also look to the saints and the example they gave on how to follow Christ. We will have setbacks, but we can go to him for anything as he knows how we are tempted since he himself was tempted.

We can learn from his character, his study, his quiet time, and his prayer life.  Imitating Christ is a practice with scriptural merit, and it is something that Christ told us to do.  It does not mean that we will be sinless, but it does mean that our perfect savior expects us to live godly lives.  These godly and loving lives will be seen by others and will be helpful in evangelization.

Saint Quotes

“The devil fears hearts on fire with love of God.”- St. Catherine of Siena

“Our hearts were made for You, O Lord, and they are restless until they rest in You.”-St. Augustine of Hippo

“Life with Christ is a wonderful adventure.”-St. John Paul II

“Father, I am seeking: I am hesitant and uncertain, but will you, O God, watch over each step of mine and guide me.”- St. Augustine of Hippo


[1]Thomas A Kempis, Imitation of Christ (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 1996), 1.

[2]”In His Steps by Charles Sheldon,” Christian Classics Ethereal Library, accessed December 4, 2020, http:/​/​www.ccel.org/​ccel/​sheldon/​ihsteps.ii.html.

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