WWJD: Let's Not Skip A Step

"My, aren't those bracelets nice! What does 'WWJD' stand for?"

The opportunity to share your faith, to bear witness to the Gospel of Christ to an unchurched person or a weak or hurting member of God's family is an exciting privilege God gives His children (1 Cor. 3:9). Truly, along with the public ministry of the Word and Sacraments (Matt. 28:19-20), this personal speaking of God's Truth is how God accomplishes the primary work of His Church: the saving of the lost and the encouragement of those who receive that salvation by grace through faith (1 Thes. 5:11; 1 Pet 3:15). Speaking that Truth with sincere love to someone who knows little or nothing about the saving Grace given us in Christ Jesus is a Gospel opportunity that truly should not be wasted, and it is fitting that we would look for ways to involve lost and hurting people in conversations where we can bring God's Word to them. The current popularity of the "WWJD" bracelet cannot be overlooked as such a 'conversation starter' and witness tool. Like the Christian's good works, such adornments can attract attention to our story of "the wonderful deeds of Him who called us out of darkness into His marvelous light"(1 Pet. 2:9).

A concern might be raised, though, that the first step needed in this process may be overlooked, or that too little emphasis may be being placed upon it. That first step is ensuring that the saving sacrifice of Christ on Calvary's cross is both understood by the bracelet's wearer and kept as the primary focus of his or her witness. Our emphasis must not so much be on what we, as Christians, should do, but on what Jesus has done for us.

Rightly dividing (and applying) Law and Gospel is the mandate of Scripture not only in catechesis, but also--perhaps especially--in evangelism. Standing alone, the WWJD bracelet points us only to the Law...as bad a thing for the wearer as for those he or she wishes to reach. What would Jesus do? He would "do all things well" (Mark 7:37), He would fulfill the Law perfectly (Matt. 5:17, 3:15, Gal. 4:4-6), He would "be perfect as [his] Father in Heaven is perfect (Matt. 5:48)...following a path that doesn't always seem apparent to us, as in His encounters with the rich young ruler (Matt. 19:21-22) and the Syro-Phonecian woman (Matt. 15:26), or in His allowing His disciples to pick grain on the Sabbath (Matt. 12:1-8, noticing to what He points them). We cannot be pointed to our own speculation upon what Jesus would do, but only to the Law as it was given us in the Ten Commandments and reaffirmed in Jesus' own words (Matt. 22:36-40) And even with that, we must see that that Law is not only a guide for us Christians, but that it is still a mirror, showing us and condemning us for our sin; we always fall short of earning God's praise (Romans 3:23).

The Law shows us that we could never, truly, "do as Jesus did. The testimony of WWJD has the capactity to make Jesus nothing more than a new Moses, a new Lawgiver (as our Confessions warn, Ap. IV 15, etc.; cf. Luther's comments on the Law as 'schoolmaster' in his commentary on St. Paul's Epistle to the Galatians), which leads only to despair (Ap. IV 38: "The Law always accuses," etc.) if not taught in the light of WHJD: "What Has Jesus Done?" And the very breath of Christ carries these Words from the Cross, "It is finished!" Coupling the thoughts intended for the WWJD bracelets with the Grace of the Gospel in this way gives us the opportunity to share in a truly loving way the whole--and essential--truth of God's Word. WHJD? He has fulfilled perfectly the Law that we have always failed to keep, and carried all those failures--all the sins of mankind--to the Cross, where He suffered a humiliating and cruel death...our death, in our place, paying for all those sins. And as He overcame that death on the third day, He now has given us that same glory, and freedom from all condemntaion (Rom. 8:1). What we needed done, He has done for us--perfectly .

Those of us who have already purchased and distributed these bracelets have an obligation to relate the full teaching of the Scripture to their wearers, both the Law as our moral guide (and, always, mirror!) and the Gospel as it sets us free to live in Christ. Teaching that we are free--not because we are trying to act as Jesus would have but, because of Jesus' redeeming act of love--that must be our focus at all times.

Preferably, though, we won't take the chance that we (or, worse, our children or students!) will be misled by this fad with its twin dangers: 1) that our evangelism opportunities become law-centered; 2) that the religious reinforcement that the wearer receives would be a constant hammering of their failure to do what Jesus would do or, conversely, a reinforcement of the natural tendency of fallen man toward overlooking one's own failures and becoming steeped in self-righteousness (the very thing that their non-Christian friends will be accusing them of anyway...and what is warned against in Ap. IV 21).

So, if we have already handed out those WWJD bracelets as witness tools, let's make sure that the tools are properly used, intentionally teaching the wearer how to testify of the saving Grace of the Gospel so that others know how Jesus has freed them from their sins. ("See, I look at this to remind me of God's Law; but, I fail so often to live up to Jesus' standard I have to keep turning back to His blood alone to receive forgiveness.") Perhaps you will decide it is wise to offer a 'clarifying tee-shirt', as some congregations have done, with a picture of Christ on the cross, the top of the shirt reading "WWJD" and the bottom reading "More than I ever could." Or, perhaps you will simply start out with the full testimony of the Gospel by ordering shirts or bracelets asking 'WHJD' instead. Such a thing would truly set apart our Lutheran witness as one of pure and true Gospel.

Let us not skip the first step of equipping our young believers/evangelists, but constantly reinforce the question that we, as sinners, need most to ask and be able to answer: "WHJD?--What Has Jesus Done?"!

Soli Deo Gloria!

Mr. James K Heap, LCMS layman

Rev. Eric J. Stefanski, LCMS pastor

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