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In Search of Jesus Lost
We find ourselves in a situation where someone has just offended us. What is our immediate reaction? Let's stop and think, Now what would Jesus do? Oh, yes, now we know. We know exactly what to do. That question works for us every time. Why don't we apply this question to all our problems in life? It would keep us out of so much trouble. We would have that peace of mind that we're in God's perfect will every time we act as Jesus would. So many people have said that they practice this whenever they are in doubt, yet it is amazing that we still fail to remember to use it in all our challenges.
So the answer to people who offend us, of course, is to forgive them for they know not what they dowhich was what Christ asked His Father to do from the cross. There should be no question about doing that, for Christ also charged us in His sermon on the Mount to turn the other cheek, give our cloak also, pray for them that spitefully use us, bless them that curse us. See how easy this is? I'm practicing blessing everyone already.
But what do we do with all those situations where Christ didn't choose one of the aforementioned options? If we disapprove of our religious leaders, can we call them "sons of snakes"? Christ did (see Mt. 12:34). If Mother Nature doesn't yield us a decent meal, can we curse her produce to wither and die? Christ did (see Mt. 21:18-19). If someone uses our homealbeit without our permissionto earn himself an honest living, can we make a rope, chase him withit, and vandalize his wares? Christ did (see Jn. 2:14-17). Where's that turning of the other cheek?
Not to mention that Christ is seemingly so exasperatingly inconsistent. Take His position on people of other ethnic groups. Example one: in John 4:6-29 a Samaritan woman, somewhat lacking in morals, is minding her own business by a well. At the same time, Jesus is resting at the well, and is already well aware of her promiscuous behavior as He sees her approach. Does He politely walk away from the well? Of course not. He actually initiates a conversation by asking her to serve Him, engages in idle discourse about all her boyfriends, and even offers her salvation. Next scene: A Gentile woman is standing afar off from Christ as He is healing people. Perhaps she heard about the woman at the well, and because her needs are not as significant as salvation, she assumes that Christ certainly won't brush her off. She shouts, "I have a sick daughter!" All-merciful Christ, of course, surely can't resist that. But, no. He not only ignores her, but when she finally throws herself prostrate before Him, He actually rebuffs her, comparing her to a dog. The poor woman has to match wits with Him to gain her child's healing (see Mk. 7:25-30).
So which Jesus do we copy? How are we supposed to know what He would do? We don't have a clue. He has an infinite mind, has lived since before the beginning of time, has access to all information from Heaven's loft. Can we, with our finite minds, who have been Christians for a few years, who are constrained on planet Earth, after asking one provocative question inside a few seconds, assume we know what a Divine Master would do? According to Isaiah, His ways are higher than ours, yet we imagine we can ask our carnal brains, which "know in part" (see 1 Cor. 13:9) what that higher way would be. This strikes me as totally impertinent. The troubling part for me is that we arrogantly ask ourselves what a deity would do. I should hope that no matter how brilliant or clever I am, whatever solution I invent, my God would have come up with a response that would have flabbergasted me. Why else would I need Him?
I heard someone once point out that Christ constantly referred to Himself as the "Son of Man" rather than the "Son of God" emphasizing that He was able to do everything in the same flesh that we're trapped in. However, "Son of Man" is a reference to an obscure passage in Daniel that predicts the coming Messiah. Jesus was emphasizing that He was the Messiah, not that He was subjected to the same flesh we have. Yes, He did have the same flesh, and did show us that any enlightenment came only through the Spirit, but these are not the verses indicating that. Here, the Son of Man arouses my deepest admiration and awe,
Case in point: Imagine being at a wedding in the village of Cana in Galilee (see Jn. 2:1-11). Everyone has been drinking in celebration. Several people have drunk themselves to the point of drunkenness. Finally the wine runs out. Now, what would Christ do? Well, the answer should be obviousnothing at all. Thanking the host for a good time would be polite. The last thing imaginable would be to invent more winewine so good everyone would be tempted to have another round. Are we not flabbergasted at Jesus' response? If you aren't, I am. (And yes, it must have been fermented because everyone commented it was better than the previous. Because the Bible clarifies the quality, it could have just as easily said that it wasn't intoxicating. In addition, the Bible doesn't offer different Greek words for the wine we're told to "be ye not drunk with" and the wine Christ invented.)
Or how about what Christ did when He didn't have any money to pay taxes? Now I'm going to ask myself what Christ would do ... probably take a good, honest job to make some money with which to pay the taxes. No, missed it again. He short-circuited the system and pulled from the sea a fish that happened to have the tax money in its mouth (see Mt. 17:24-27). Well, that doesn't seem right. Does this mean I should quit my job and start looking for fish with coins in their mouths?
I don't think I would have ever been clever enough to answer the question about paying tribute to the Romans the way Christ did (see Mt. 22:15-22). Rome was spending the Jews' money to finance horrible acts of debauchery. Some of Christ's own followers were zealots wanting to overthrow the Romans. Everyone knew Jesus had to be against aiding and abetting a heathen country oppressing the righteous. Could you have guessed He would have explained the money already belonged to Caesar, and returning Caesar his own money to spend on whatever carnal thing he wanted had nothing to do with righteousness? I still have a hard time with that one. Doesn't that rank right up there with allowing our government to spend our taxes on abortions for poor people? Don't we all fight tooth and nail against that issue?
Let's move to a present-day analogy to picture ourselves in relationship to Christ. Place yourself as the father of a ten-year-old child. He has a new puppy. The puppy breaks free from the house and runs away. Now the child decides he should do what you, his father, would do to retrieve the dog. First, he gets in the car and drives around the neighborhood looking for the dog. Next, he knocks on some strangers' doors asking if they have seen the dog. Then he decides to post a reward of $100 for the return of the dog, and drives all over town posting his leaflets even into the evening. Are you not in a state of panic by nownot to mention your son doesn't have $100, nor can he return the car without it being completely banged up? But he did all that based on asking himself, "Now, what would Father do?"
You get the point. The child did not have the training, resources, or authority to be you. You probably would have done all those things, but that didn't give your ten-year-old child permission to do them. Let's go back to being a child of Jesus. Can we forgive the sins of strangers? Christ did. Can we judge people? Christ did. Can we accept worship? Christ did. Can we ask people to drink our blood and eat our flesh? Christ did. Can we claim we are the living water? Christ did. He is God. We are not. He is the author of the Scriptures. We are the readers. The author invents the rules. The readers follow them.
Let's go back to scooping up fish to pay our taxes. Why can't we do what Christ could? Life would be so much simpler if we could solve our problems with magical featswhich is exactly why we aren't given permission to do that at our command. God is interested in developing character in His children as He raises them. An honest job to earn taxes will develop that in us. Jesus already had all the character He needed. His mission was quite different from ours. The fish needed to pay His taxes, which was their way of serving Him. We, on the other hand, didn't create the fish, and they owe us nothing.
So the question is not, "What would Jesus do?" The question is, "Jesus, what would You have me to do?" This is a much humbler position, a prerequisite for being able to do the right thing. We may still not wait long enough for the answer, or we may know the answer but fail to execute it correctly. But if we begin by asking the right questions, we won't be doomed to get it wrong before we even start. Frankly, what God wanted Jesus to do has nothing to do with what God wants us to do, no more than what God wants our neighbor to do. He has special instructions for each of us.
Besides, Jesus gave us the golden rule for all those times we need a quick decision about what to domerely ask ourselves what we would want others to do to us. He told us that if "... ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them" (Mt. 7:12a). He then underscored His mandate by explaining that it fulfilled both the Law and the prophets. Why do we disregard a question Christ Himself gave to us that has worked for centuries, yet heed another question that didn't even come out of the Bible?
Colossians 3:17 has been quoted as proof that we should ask ourselves what Jesus would do. But that verse says, "Whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by Him." We are being told how to give thanks. Haven't we all wanted to thank a person for having done something special for us, when there was nothing suitable we could give them in return that they didn't already have or that we could afford? At those times, we may make a donation to their favorite charity, and send a card to them telling them that we gave "in their name." Survivors of loved ones often ask that we not send the deceased flowers, but to give "in their name" to the research into a cure for the disease that killed the beloved. We honor a person in that way. That person gets the credit, not us. This verse tells us to live our whole lives doing things where we let Christ get the credit as gratitude for all He has done for usparticularly since it's His power that enables us to accomplish it anyway. We can't pay Christ back, but we can do things "in His name."
Even though I'm claiming the Bible doesn't teach us to ask ourselves, "What would Jesus do?" I am not trying to destroy the benefit we gain by watching how our God showed us how to be human. We would be very well served to start washing more feet as He did, to learn from His humility, His patience, His kindness. He did model for us perfect behavior by walking in the Spirit, not in the flesh. We are all obligated to treat each other with good manners, to act decently and morally. We don't have to ask ourselves what Jesus would do to know those things. The Bible tells us to do them. But to do everything as Christ would have done it? Then we wouldn't get married, have children, or move out of our parents' homes until we were in our thirties. We'd all be carpenters, or at least follow in the steps of our respective fathers' occupations. And so, on we go with having to second-guess which way to interpret what Jesus did.
For the sake of one last attempt at doing what Jesus would do, let's try a final possibility. We look at a lost world, a world on a path to destruction. Our hearts bleed. We have compassion for it, we want everyone to go to Heaven. So we go to the cross and give our lives as a ransom for many. But it doesn't work. We're not divine.
We love to shortcut the Bible and its many books because not many of us have the advanced theology degree to unravel the Word. We like simplistic formulas rather than diligently studying the details of the Scripture. But the WWJD (What would Jesus do?) rage has reduced us all to adolescents. I believe it holds us hostage in our ignorance. And it is tiring to see Christians looking ignorant to the world. This particular marketing campaign was started by some well-meaning college students who took the idea from a very good fiction book called In His Steps. However, my life extends beyond the boundaries of the possibilities of a fiction writer's book. Although I think the students' motives were pure in launching this campaign, and that it is a very good question, it counterfeits the real question our Lord requires us to askthe golden rule. Therefore, it is a hindering question. To me, the Bible is the most intelligent book and contains the most wisdom found anywhere in the world. We have Christ who deciphers it to its most simple form. When we try to do it for Him, we miss the mark. We don't need to prove our own cleverness, because our own little captions will always fall short of living in the wisdom the Bible offers us.
Excerpted from In Search of Jesus Lost by Jan Tapia. Copyright © 2001 by Jan Tapia. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.