What Would Jesus Do?

The newest addition to the literature website is Charles M. Sheldon’s In His Steps.  The book is by no means a great work of literature, but it is one of the best-selling books of all time, having sold more than thirty million copies since it was first published more than a century ago, and has been hugely influential.  In it, the author challenges the reader to make every decision by asking the question, “What would Jesus do?”  While following the example set by Christ certainly sounds like a good idea, the book arose from the Social Gospel movement of the late nineteenth century and promotes a form of Christianity that sees Jesus as an example of sacrificial living rather than as a Redeemer who came to save lost sinners.  According to the novel, a Christian utopia can be achieved by transforming the environment in which the poor live their lives, and thus preventing the evil into which they inevitably fall.  It contains nothing of the true Gospel message.

The book was not only influential in its day; it also sparked the fad among evangelical Christians in the 1990s of wearing WWJD bracelets, despite the fact that they didn’t really understand what the novel was teaching.  Sadly, it never answers the question of how one should ascertain what Jesus would do in any given situation; people essentially are encouraged to follow what they feel Jesus would do.  No suggestion is ever made that consulting Scripture would be a good idea for answering the question.  As a result, we have the travesty today of people condemning those who seek to uphold biblical standards of morality by insisting that Jesus surely would love and accept everyone, whatever his or her sexual practices and gender preferences might be.  Christians need to be aware of and evaluate from Scripture such teachings, which today constitute what many people think Christianity is (or should be).