Monday, June 21, 2004

WWJD Craze

The magical thing about a personal soap-box is that you never get tired of standing on it and looking at the world. I was reading today in Colossians 1:9-10, “And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.”

Like so many other places in his writings, Paul draws a direct link between spiritual knowledge and wisdom and the practical events of our daily lives. We walk in a manner worthy of the Lord as a result of being filled with the knowledge of our Lord. The equation is a fairly simple one-right knowledge of God is what leads to right behavior. Now this does not mean that we inevitably behave correctly if we “know correctly,” and it also does not mean that we will never act rightly if we do not know Christ as we should. So what does it mean?

First, to know how to walk in “his will” we need to pursue it as an object of knowledge. If we endeavor to apply our lives to the things God wishes to accomplish through us, it helps to know what those things are. We therefore are encouraged to increase in “knowledge and wisdom.”

Secondly, a good Christian Ethic is holistic, which means that our behavior does not stand alone as a gauge of what is morally right. Our motivations, our character, our circumstances, the consequences, and so forth, all help to comprise the standard by which our actions are judged. Did you give a cup of cold water to one in need? Great. Did you do it only to curry favor with a wrathful God? Not quite as great.

Thirdly, I do not think we are pleasing to God (in the fullest sense) if we “accidentally” do the right thing. In other words, it may be good to be ethical, but do we always glorify God with that behavior? It is entirely possible to do good deeds to draw attention to oneself, to advance an evil cause, or to pay service to a false religion or philosophy, and so on. For Paul, the direct link between knowing you are doing God’s will, and actually doing God’s will was of ultimate value.

This highlights the kind of issue I have with the WWJD craze. It seems like a great question to ask yourself often, but how many people can actually answer it? The only way that question becomes valuable is if the individual knows what the will of God is, and I am not so sure too many who wear the ubiquitous bracelets actually do.


Eric "the" Lind said...

Excellent comments, Phil. Too many Christians have the horrible misconception that the answer to WWJD is "be nice" or "love people" or something equally insipid and uninformed. Sure, Jesus loved people, but he also held them to God's standard of righteous behavior. He didn't stone the woman caught in the act of adultery, but he didn't tell her to return to her life of sin - he commanded her to leave it. The gospels are replete with examples of this, where Christ had compassion for sinners, but that compassion was never equated with tolerance of their sin.

Joey said...

Reminds me of a panel show in 2000 where some liberal reporter (really narrowed it down there, didn't I) said that the underlining theme of Gore's campaign was "What Would Jesus Do?"

Despite the fact that 1 out of every 5 modern Christing songs has the word "holy" in it at least 3 times, most people assume that the main characteristic of God is His love.