In a recent message I made fun of Donald Trump’s hair and how most of us see him differently than he sees himself. I implied that he seems to think he is quite awesome, but we see him more like this;
We then all had a good laugh at The Donald’s expense and I went on with my sermon that made a point related to my subject. The particular message was all about not thinking more highly of our self than we ought, and that pride is the one disease that makes everybody sick but the one who has it. I almost always use a contemporary example in every sermon to illustrate my point. Poor (read rich) Donald is just such an easy target I couldn’t resist. When the sermon aired I received a very irate email from a viewer. He was shocked that I would make fun of Mr Trump. I get lots of complaints from viewers but honestly I did not see this one coming. I mean, let’s face it, Trump paints a target on his chest. He is just so ridiculous you can’t really take him seriously. He craves the spotlight and loves attention. He has essentially created his own Truman Show and cast himself as the leading character. He has done everything but name it the Trumpman Show. If you live your life out loud on television for the world to gawk at you, you have to expect a few pot shots from the cheap seats. He is a caricature that invites ribbing.
The TV viewer who sent me the email demanded that I apologize ‘on air’ to Mr Trump. To me it would be like feeling bad for making fun of Donald Duck and publicly apologizing. Donald (the Duck) is not waiting for my apology and I am quite certain neither is Donald (the Trump). However, I actually did see the viewer’s point. Trump is still human, has feelings, and besides what has he ever done to me? I don’t even know him. If I did, we might be great friends. As a television personality myself, I am probably more like him than I am willing to admit. The biggest difference is he has more money… but I have way better hair.
At any rate I was feeling a little bad that I had picked on the poor defenseless Donald… then my critic played the WWJD card. “Would Jesus make fun of Donald Trump? Don’t you know that Jesus loves Mr Trump and would never make a joke at his expense?” Okay sorry, but I am so sick of hearing WWJD as the singular criterion to judge what is right or wrong. Don’t get me wrong, I think contemplating what Jesus would do in our ‘own’ situations is a helpful practice that can often keep us on the right track. But nowadays it has become a club to smack ‘others’ with. We remind others what they shouldn’t do, by telling them what Jesus wouldn’t do. The gross misuse of the expression has become the sanctified way to criticize the behaviour of other Christians. We have changed WWJD from What WOULD Jesus do? (as a personal guiding principle) to What WOULDN’T Jesus do? (as a condemnation of others) I continually hear the words from my critics; “Jesus would never do that!” Are we sure about that? Do we really know what Jesus wouldn’t do?
There is ample evidence to determine what Jesus would do in a given situation… forgive a sinner, love an enemy, or bless a persecutor. Once you get into what Jesus wouldn’t do, you are into serious speculation. For example, would Jesus go water skiing? Of course not, Jesus walks on water. Taken to the inferred conclusion; if Jesus wouldn’t water ski, then neither should you! And perhaps you lack faith if you aren’t prepared to walk on it. Would Jesus go to a football game? We have no evidence of Jesus taking an interest in sports of any kind. There go your weekends!
Would Jesus go on a Caribbean holiday? Absolutely not! Jesus never spent a single moment pursuing worldly pleasure. The only recreation He ever had was retreating for long extended times of prayer and fasting in remote places. So for your next holiday, check Expedia.ca for deserted mountain getaways without indoor plumbing. Would Jesus get married? Uh Oh, I am too late on this one. Would Jesus buy a house? This one is even clearer. “Birds have nests, foxes have holes but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest His head.” Time to sell the house, give all the money to the poor and move into the homeless shelter. The possibilities of what Jesus ‘wouldn’t do’ just go on and on. The church would be a interesting place indeed if it only contained homeless, single, sandal wearing, unemployed carpenters that speak in parables.
By now I am sure I have aggravated at least a few people who would say, “Those examples are just silly, those things were not part of what Jesus came to do.” Exactly! Now we are getting somewhere. So, when my critics say, “Jesus would never tell a joke like that”. I say, “Of course He wouldn’t. He didn’t tell any jokes at all”. (Pity, I think he would have been hilarious and He had lots of material with those screw-up disciples. But, I suspect He couldn’t risk the simpleminded among us not recognizing His sarcasm. So instead He stuck to the script most of the time.) Secondly, I like to remind them, “Yeah, I know, but I’m not Jesus”. And I am not joking. We are not meant to be just like Jesus in all things. That could get you into more trouble than you bargained for.
What I am really trying to say is we cannot use WWJD to dismiss the actions of others as invalid. Last week I wrote a blog on Rob Ford and Justin Trudeau and their respective bad examples of drug use. I was immediately met with the predictable, “Would Jesus criticize a political leader?” The answer once again is ‘No’. That was not something Jesus did. Christ came with a very limited scope of ministry. He came as a Messiah to reconcile man to God not to reform His culture. As I have already pointed out, there were many things He did not do as they were not pertinent to His cause. Just because Jesus didn’t do something, doesn’t necessarily mean He wouldn’t,
What Jesus did or didn’t do, in of itself, does not always determine whether it is right or wrong for us to do it. John the Baptist received higher praise from Jesus than any other person in history. Yet, he was beheaded for criticizing his political leaders (namely, King Herod). In the Old Testament the role of a prophet very often included criticism of political leaders. Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, Micah… they all challenged the bad behaviour of the kings of the earth. In the history of Christianity, the church has always been the force for righteousness, calling out right and wrong. Jesus never spoke a single word against slavery, yet fortunately Christian men and women did not mistake that as a mandate not to so themselves. Notables like William Wilberforce and Abraham Lincoln and many others devoted their lives to the abolition of slavery and today it is illegal in every nation of the world. Thankfully, they didn’t have people pointing at their WWJD bracelets and telling them that Jesus wouldn’t do that. Instead they went ahead in their God given roles and changed the world. Yes, we should all strive for the character of Jesus. No argument there. However, we need understand that God calls each of us a unique role in advancing His Kingdom, which will unquestionably differ from Jesus earthly ministry.
Part of my calling is to challenge the broken values of a fallen culture on things like, drugs, divorce, sexuality, abortion, materialism, etc. Is that what Jesus did? Nope. Is it biblical? Yup, and I am more than aware that it will provoke disagreement and sometimes anger. In my mind I succeed when I get Christians thinking and talking about the tough questions. If we are not careful, WWJD can be misused as an excuse to do nothing and to judge those that are trying to do something. That would be a far greater evil. Edmund Burke a British Christian MP in the 1700’s once said, “All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.”