WWJD: What would Jesus do?
It’s a great question. Christians are of course supposed to follow the example of Christ.
There can be a problem, though, when the answers people give to the question are disconnected from Scripture. People can end up just taking whatever they would do and then claim Jesus probably would have done it, too. But the Jesus described in the New Testament does not fit well with many of our modern sensibilities.
Yes, Jesus taught love, mercy, and sacrifice. But these things, if viewed from a contemporary lens, can easily be reduced to a kind of hollow sentimentalism. The Jesus of the Gospels, on the other hand, was deeply serious – both about loving others, and about sin.
So here are 6 things Jesus did that many people today would probably brand as “unChrist-like.”
1) Called people names
You might just want to read all of chapter 23 in Matthew’s Gospel.
Jesus gives a long and detailed attack on the moral character of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, and he pulls no punches. Among the names he calls them are “snakes,” “brood of vipers,” “hypocrites,” and “blind guides.” Ouch.
2) Offended people without apology
In Matthew chapter 15, some Pharisees and teachers of the law challenge Jesus about why he and his disciples don’t keep a certain tradition of the elders. In response, Jesus ignores their question, calls them hypocrites, and points out how they contradict the law of God with some of their traditions.
Then Jesus’ disciples come to him and say, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this?”
Jesus’ response? He offers no apology, no attempt at clarification, but continues his critique: “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be pulled up by the roots. Leave them; they are blind guides. If the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.”
3) Warned against laughter
A lot of people have heard of the Beatitudes as they appear in Matthew chapter 5: “Blessed are the poor in spirit… blessed are those who mourn… blessed are the meek,” etc.
A similar set of blessings also appear in Luke chapter 6, except that they are also paired with corresponding warnings:
But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort.
Woe to you who are well fed now, for you will go hungry.
Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep.
Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you, for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets.
All four of these are challenging. But notice that the 3rd one is a warning against laughing. Imagine the headlines if Jesus had preached this today. He’s probably be branded as some sort of rigid, humorless archconservative.
4) Cleared the Temple with a whip
One of the times Jesus’ visited the Temple in Jerusalem, the Gospel of John says “he found people selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money.” His response?
So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!”
It’s easy to read over these words quickly without grasping their full import. He made a whip, and used it to at least drive the animals out of the Temple, and possibly the people as well (there’s ambiguity with the word “all”). He flipped tables andscattered people’s money around, while he was also driving them out.
This was not just some nice request.
5) Was intentionally opaque in his teaching
Jesus had so many memorable parables. He told them because stories are easier for common people to understand and remember, right?
Actually, it’s the opposite.
In Matthew chapter 13, Jesus is asked point-blank: “Why do you speak to the people in parables?” And here’s his answer:
Because the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. Whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. This is why I speak to them in parables: “Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand.”
In other words, it appears that Jesus taught in parables to make it hard for the average person to understand. He then revealed the meaning of his parables secretly to his close disciples.
6) Preached graphic depictions of hell
Everyone knows that “fire and brimstone” preaching is ineffective and, in any case, antithetical to the spirit of the Gospel of love, right?
Then why did Jesus preach about hell so much?
Jesus gave horrifying descriptions of the place. Throughout the Gospels we find that Jesus describes hell as a place of “weeping and gnashing of teeth,” a place where “the worms that eat them do not die, and the fire is not quenched,” a “blazing furnace,” “darkness,” “unquenchable fire,” and “the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” (Several of these descriptions he repeats several times.)
And he constantly warns people from doing things that would get them sent there. So maybe preaching about hell isn’t so bad?