In recent days I have been talking often about the human propensity to ride a pendulum and a related issue that is actually what I want to comment on today.

I often find myself in the position of discussing a truth that has been widely accepted.  It is so easy to be understood as attacking that idea, when in reality I usually want to affirm that a particular idea is true, but there is more to it than is commonly perceived.  In other words, “that is true but here is the rest of the story.”  Yet again, “let’s expand your understanding of that idea, but I don’t want to swing your pendulum all the way to the other side of the spectrum.”  I’m not talking true and false here, but true and “truer.” 

Am I in any way suggesting that truth is relative?  Absolutely not!  On the other hand, while truth is absolute our perception and understanding of it is rather subjective, and prone to misapprehension.

The bracelets and the concept of WWJD or “What Would Jesus Do?” is a great example.  Is it a good idea to focus on trying to act as Jesus would act? Most certainly.  It’s a great idea. However, if we are suggesting that in momentary occasions we can significantly modify our responses to mirror those Jesus might make/have made by wearing a WWJD bracelet, we are fooling ourselves.

The significance of the WWJD bracelet is in conforming the day-to-day pattern of our normative lives to the same pattern that Jesus lived out.  In other words, if we hope to respond to crisis moments like Jesus, then we have to pattern the non-crisis moments of our lives to His habits.

So the most important times to ask ourselves, “What would Jesus do?” is not when a crisis strikes–we will respond instinctually at that moment–but at the beginning of each day, or better yet when planning the next day, week or month. Thus we will form our instinctual responses as a pattern of transformation takes hold in our lives.

See what I mean? True and true-er, not true and false.

4 thoughts on “WWJD

  1. This is an intriguing question; I had to re-think what I’d written and see if I still felt the same. I do overall, but I feel slightly different about tzitzit as an example. What particularly were you wondering if it would also apply to tzitzit?

    Part of why I’m intrigued is that my experience with tzitzit has been that it does have a significant effect on moment-to-moment decisions. Although still not so much in those moments when you are reacting according to instinct.

    I believe the reason for this is two-fold: 1) because tzitzit are so out of the ordinary and because they swing, you are more constantly aware of them then you are of a WWJD bracelet, 2) a WWJD bracelet could be a ONE.ORG or a LIVE STRONG or any number of other bracelets out now, so there is not the same level of identifying nature that accompanies tzitzit.

    However, what I’ve written in the post above also applies to tzitzit in that it is over time how they influence your day to day habits that makes the most significant impact on you. I believe it is rare that someone would wear tzitzit and not also pray the blessings that accompany putting them on in the morning, for example.

    There is a fascinating story either in the Talmud or Midrash (I can’t remember which at the moment) about a rabbi who went to visit a famous Gentile prostitute. He had paid his fee, taken off his outer clothes, and was climbing up onto her raised pedestal of a bed, when his tzitzit brushed against his leg and he was reminded of who he was and what his obligations to God’s commandments were.

    He then apologized very politely to the lady and excused himself. The story goes on to say that the lady was so struck by his integrity and love of God, that she quit her business, became a proselyte and later married the rabbi.

    Is it a true story? How is one to know? However, I do believe that when a person obeys God’s commands He often intervenes in semi-miraculous ways to assist that person in staying on God’s paths.

  2. nate

    i agree with you that tzitzit is different in that God does command them. they are also different as they are more free flowing and likely to bump into things as you pointed out. however, i think over time, we become immune to God’s Spirit prodding us.

    a few years ago, i found myself desiring sin quite often, but despite my best efforts (at first) God protected me from the fulfillment of them. however, the more i continued to lust in my heart, the more God chose to give me over to it. and i found what my flesh had been desiring. unfortunately, all the tzitzit in the world wouldnt have stopped me as it did that rabbi.

    this is because my heart was hardened. i needed to have God circumcize my heart. and in the same way, i think that is somewhat how paul (and Moses) get the point when they say it isnt the physical circumcision that brings full obedience, but that of the heart. so while tzitzit can be helpful as a reminder, without a circumcized heart, they will be ignored.


  3. I like the ideas you have expressed here…oh, to be so like-minded with Christ that our natural instinct, by habit, is the way that He would respond to a given situation.

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