I suddenly 'rubberbanded' to the late 1940s. The colorful wrist bands being worn by teens with "WWJD" woven into the material were not the call letters of a new radio station. WWJD stands for:
a question to be asked when working through a moral quandary.
The question comes from the book, In His Footsteps (written by Frank Sheldon a Congregational minister). The story concerns a newspaper editor who begins to take his Christian discipleship seriously by asking, "What would Jesus do?" In his paper, news began to reflect less the media maxim, "If it bleeds, it leads," and more the positive, helpful things taking place in people's lives. The WWJD question led the editor into some personally difficult, socially unpopular and financially threatening decisions.
Of course, the bracelets are a current fad and, being faddish, after this brief prominence, they will pass from the scene. Also, the WWJD question is far too simplistic and superficial for many of the major moral dilemmas we encounter. How, for example, does the question help us address the cultural issues of abortion and human cloning without leading to the current political and social cliches or prejudices already on our tongues? We hear this so often in the stock phrases of the preacher's, "The Bible says," and the politician's, "The American people want").
Still, the question, tied to the earnestness of my youth, was a straightforward ethical standard. It had me thinking more about Jesus as a person and his teachings. Today, the question breaks through many of my hardened opinions that I pass off as principles. As a conscious way of being a disciple of Jesus, the question clearly is superior to the usual, daily unthinking, non-attentiveness which often attends my discipleship.
With the genuine desire to emulate Jesus by discerning what he said and did and to translate that to one's present life is a good first stage for Christian decision-making. It doesn't replace the more complex and sophisticated analysis necessary for the ambiguous moral issues which we face, but it is amazing how often this question confronts a far too comfortable and smug acceptance of things as they are.
An Old Testament prophet once wrote, "And a little child shall lead them." I never thought it might mean one's own early self.
--Robert H. Tucker
30 March 1998