11 July 2008

WWJD

I am thinking about the validity of WWJD (What Would Jesus Do?). My motivation is that in becoming familiar with "Kingdom Theology" I've found many arguments made from looking at what Jesus did and attempting to emulate him. A defining statement of what I'm talking about is from Greg Boyd in Myth of a Christian Nation: “To the extent that an individual or group looks like Jesus — dying for those who crucified him and praying for their forgiveness in the process — to that degree they can be said to manifest the kingdom of God. To the degree that they do not look like this, they do not manifest God’s kingdom.”

For example, this type of reasoning can be seen in Derek Webb's lyrics. I recently acquired his latest album (free download at noisetrade.com). In "I For An I," in arguing for pacifism he says:

this may not work and I don’t guarantee that it will
but I’ve got no choice unless you tell me who Jesus would kill

The argument here is that since Jesus in his life on earth as recorded in the gospels never killed anyone, never advised to have someone killed, and indeed seemed the very opposite in giving of his own life for his sheep, that there is no just basis for going to war if we are to imitate Christ. (Said at Southern did a complete review of the album as well as interviews with Webb.)

Revelation 19 shows us Christ wielding a sword. An image of king Aragorn in battle flashes in my mind.

Rev 19:11 Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war.
Rev 19:15 From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty.
Rev 19:21 And the rest were slain by the sword that came from the mouth of him who was sitting on the horse, and all the birds were gorged with their flesh.

Now some may argue that this is figurative. That is another discussion. The basic fact here is that Jesus is depicted as one going to war and killing flesh.

Aside from trying to figure out who Jesus would kill, we need to determine if imitating Christ is how we are to live, and to what scale and what depth. By scale I mean one's individual actions versus something like the policies of a country. By depth I mean becoming like Christ in character versus in physical appearance, for example.

One obvious problem with WWJD is illustrated in Urban Dictionary's example usage:

"I saw this guy in the theater talking on his cell phone. I thought about chunking popcorn at his head until he shut up; then I saw my wrist band that said 'W.W.J.D.' So I lit him on fire and sent him to Hell, I really did feel better to [sic]."

Of course it is my personal desire and goal to become like Christ in his character. But I do not think the depth should go any further. Should we all grow out our hair to look like Aryan Jesus? Should all females become male? Should we all move to the middle-east and hang out at Bethany? An article in Christianity Today 6 years ago titled "Why I Don't Imitate Christ" tells of some radical actions taken in history by people attempting to imitate Christ, such as being willingly whipped bloody to identify with Christ. Isn't this ridiculous?

In a recent post I addressed some of Obama's statements on the Bible. He said that he doubted the Department of Defense would survive application of Jesus' Sermon on the Mount. I do not think that is the scale to which Jesus intended anyway. Jesus was not a politician running for president discussing public policy; part of his mission was to change the hearts of individuals. Boyd lumped "individual" and "group" together, as though there is no distinction. Unfortunately such an approach just doesn't hold up in finding a consistent understanding of all Scripture. Do we forget that "eye for an eye" was instituted by God? Can we reconcile it with "turn the other cheek"?

All believers collectively make up the Body of Christ, with Jesus himself as the head (Col 2:19, Eph 5:23). Though as Christians we are to be "little Christs," each of us individually are incapable of exactly emulating him. Do we each have different gifts because Jesus could only handle one at a time, or because we aren't supposed to be exactly like him? The Body is not a fractal. My hand does not look like my head.

I have even come across arguments that say since Jesus never spoke out against homosexuality or abortion that we shouldn't either. Um...what?

Please comment if you have any thoughts on how we are to imitate Christ, in scale and in depth.

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