Sage advice from an elderly gentleman perched atop a lonely mountain.
Hello friends! Today our question comes from Milo Krench of Garden City, Kansas.
“Hey Banaba,” Milo writes. “I don’t get a strong Christian vibe from you, so let me ask you, what would Jesus do?”
To my new friend Milo, I say simply, “I am not sure so I will ask him the next time I see him.”
But of course, that is me making a small joke for you.
Milo, you present an interesting question that requires a bit of interpretation on my part to get to what I think you might be looking for…or not.
It is possible that by referencing a “Christian vibe” you are looking for me to make some sort of declarative statement regarding the level of my association with Christianity.
Should I make such a statement, it is reasonable for me to guess that based on how you process my statement, you may make a determination, for yourself, about the value of my response, or the worthiness of my counsel here, depending on how much our philosophical paths align.
Another possibility is that you assume I have no real link to Christianity, so I would not be able to aptly consider how your interpretation of Jesus may react in any one of a number of dicey scenarios.
I can tell you that my life path has taught me that there is little value in making assumptions about others based on what we see, what we think we see, and how we interpret what we see when stacked against our individual belief systems.
Humans seek out commonalities. It is a survival instinct. There is safety in numbers. We look for like-minded people to enhance our tribe so that, at the very least, our common belief systems bind us together and make us stronger than we might be on our own. We have very little patience for those who don’t believe as we do or act as we think they should, even to the point where we feel they don’t belong in our tribe – philosophically of course.
In our case, between you and I, I move forward thinking that your question was an honest attempt to generate an interesting dialogue and not so much a “gotcha” question that seeks to identify me or what I do with some sort of religious or non-religious label and then to exalt or disparage me accordingly.
So, what would Jesus do?
Truthfully, I do not believe it matters.
The question itself became popular in the 1990s and flourished through the use of W.W.J.D. bracelets and associated merchandise as a way to remind people to check their morality and walk in the path of Jesus who is often defined in religion as the son of a particular God.
It is a physical reminder for the people who embrace the mindset that they can be their better self when working through the challenges of their daily lives. To some it is inspiring, to others, it is a crutch.
The fact of the matter is, one cannot really know Jesus or what he would actually do in any situation.
One can know of him. One can study the materials that explore the man he was supposed to be as he existed in his time. One can know the dogma that surrounds the essence of his teachings. One can assume to know and one can believe to know, in earnest, but that is really just a manifestation of one’s individual belief systems, biases, and their understanding of that source material. A lot of interpretation, edits, rewrites, reductions and such fed the evolution and development of the materials we access for religious clarity and guidance. That does not mean the interpretations are wrong, but it is certainly a factor to consider in how the material is absorbed and each interpretation alters the story.
People tend to function in the day-to-day based on the whole of their experiences. Negative experiences shift them one way. Positive experiences shift them another. Some days are more difficult than others and if a simple prompt such as asking what would Jesus do helps them be more successful in their journey, I am all for it.
Still, it seems there are people who are more interested in the brand than the morality itself. Are you a Christian? What kind? What denomination? What branch? If you’re not a Christian, what are you? Do you know God? Do you walk in the path of God? Are you moral? Are you penitent? Do you care for yourself and your fellow-man? The questions are limitless. And we ask them to find out who we should associate with and who we should avoid. Who will nurture us? Who will tempt us or lead us astray? Who do we invite into our tribe and who do we repel?
This is not to offend, but the teachings of Jesus are just not that complex. Be good. Be kind. Don’t do bad things. If you do bad things, make amends, learn from your experiences and go on. Try to be a good person.
I wonder how it is that with centuries of such devotion, such energy, and such emotion behind us that we still have yet to master these very simple lessons. People who say they walk in the path of Jesus are often least representative of what he taught or the example others hold him up to be.
To answer your question Milo, I do not know what Jesus would do.
If I could guess, if he were to show up today, I imagine that he would be less than pleased by what he would find here. With all of our technological advancements, we seem to have evolved very little. I imagine he would spend less time in super churches and giant cathedrals talking to televangelist and more time in hospitals, homeless shelters, and recovery centers talking to the downtrodden. I imagine he would be less about theory and more about action. I suppose he would have much to say about people who speak in his name, but who don’t live by the same values they espouse to others.
I wonder if anyone would recognize him at all, or appreciate the work he may do and the way he may do it.
I imagine he would like to see fewer and fewer people waste the energy on what it is to be him, or like him so that they might focus their energy on finding a special goodness within themselves and allowing that to flourish.
Peace to you – Banaba
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