Question: "Is 'what would Jesus do?' (WWJD) something we should seek to live by?"
Answer: “What would Jesus do?” is a popular religious expression on bracelets, necklaces, and T-shirts with the initials WWJD. The idea behind WWJD is that to know how to do the right thing, we simply ask ourselves, “What would Jesus do?” At first glance, this appears to be a good idea. However, is this something Christians should live by?
First, to claim we can conclusively know what Jesus would do in any situation is somewhat presumptuous. If we were to ask ten people what Jesus would do in a given situation, we would probably receive nine different answers. People conjure up in their minds their own image of who Jesus is and what He would do. Sadly, WWJD often becomes WDIWTD (“What Do I Want To Do?”). Simply put, we justify our behaviors, actions, and reactions by falsely imagining that Jesus would agree with us.
The following is an example of this: During the time Jesus made His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, the people thought “that the Kingdom of God was to appear immediately” (Luke 19:11). However, what was lost on them was the fact that, though Jesus was the Messiah, He would suffer horribly and die for their sins. They should have known this from reading Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53. Instead, they wanted Him as their new king, on their terms, one who conformed to their image, their plans. Their idea of a king bent on destroying the oppressive yoke of Rome was not who Jesus really was nor why He had come. His kingdom was not about destroying Rome. His kingdom was about providing salvation from sin and its consequences. Their idea of “WWJD” was false.
Many do not know what Jesus would do because they simply do not know what Jesus did do. They know the stories about His life. However, they know little or nothing about what He taught or the example He left for us to emulate. Jesus is about denying oneself, taking up a cross, and following Him (Matthew 16:24).
Second, it is presumptuous of us to believe that we know the mind of Christ: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9 ESV). Can we comprehend the mind of God through our own limited intellect? Are we capable of probing into areas that God has not revealed to us? There is a point where we must draw the line between what the Bible reveals and what we do not know. God Himself draws the line for us: “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law” (Deuteronomy 29:29). Going beyond what He reveals can be deceptive (Psalm 75:5; Matthew 7:21).
Instead of WWJD, JWSID “Jesus, what should I do?” would be better. We cannot always know the mind of God. We cannot always conclusively know what Jesus would do in a given situation. Further, what Jesus would do might not always be the same thing as what God wants us to do. As God in human form, the Messiah-Savior, Jesus had a mission and calling higher than ours. Yes, of course, we are to follow Jesus and seek to emulate Him. But that might not always mean doing the same thing that He would do, even if we could conclusively know what He would do. So, while WWJD is an infinitely better method to decision-making than most people use, it is not a fully accurate representation of how God wants us to live our lives.