When I was in high school, somebody gave me a navy blue bracelet with bright white letters that said W.W.J.D. If you were around in the 1990s, you probably remember the “What Would Jesus Do?” movement that became popular towards the middle of the decade.
The idea behind the bracelets was that seeing those shiny letters right there on your very own wrist would help you to consider what Jesus would think or do or say—before you yourself thought a thing or did a thing or said a thing.
For example, my navy blue bracelet was SUPPOSED to remind me that Jesus probably would NOT have made a snide comment to my German teacher after he threatened to give me a zero on a test because I had to leave class early for an away basketball game.
Unfortunately, I blazed right on past those letters and said the thing anyway and reasoned that the guy had it coming. After all, it’s not like I was skipping class, I had a game!
I learned a good lesson that day when my parents got a phone call after school.
For many teens and young adults who got in on the W.W.J.D. fad, it was helpful to have those letters right there in front of them. It made them stop and think. It made them run their decisions through the filter of Jesus—something that, as a follower of Christ, is such an important thing to do.
For others, sometimes myself included, it was just that: a fad. A way to fit into a certain crowd. A way to feel like we were better than all those poor sinners who didn’t consider Jesus at every turn—even when we weren’t actually considering him either.
I’ve changed a lot since my high school days (yes, I learned to keep my more brazen comments to myself), and I’d like to think that most of that change is for the better. The world has changed a lot since my high school days, too, but I’m not so sure that most of that change is for the better.
These days, there’s a whole lot of noise.
Noise from the news.
Noise from social media.
Noise from our families.
Noise from our circles of friends.
Everyone has an opinion on everything—and rightly so—but unlike the days before social media, there are multiple places to post those opinions. So instead of having a conversation in which both parties take the time to listen intently, make eye contact, and shake hands once the conversation ends, now it’s just commenting back and forth, sometimes in all caps, behind the protective screen of a device.
And as I notice all of the banter, all of the opinions, all of the disparaging comments, all of the name calling and assumptions and blaming and pointing fingers…
I wonder if now would be a good time to bring the bracelets back.
If Jesus were alive today, what would he do?
As I considered this question in the context of 2021, I decided to take a look through the Bible for some answers. Here’s what I found:
To be clear, I don’t mean bent out of shape like I often did before I decided to sign out of Facebook.
Jesus bent. Said a different way, Jesus submitted himself.
Jesus bent to the will of God, to the people he served during his ministry, and ultimately to you and me through his death on a cross.
Jesus Bent to Earth
“The Word was first, the Word present to God, God present to the Word. The Word was God, in readiness for God from day one.” – John 1:1-2 (MSG)
In Matthew West’s song “Broken Things,” there’s a line that I absolutely love: “Oh but I heard a whisper, as heaven bent down.” Isn’t that a great visual? Heaven bending down to earth?
Before Jesus came to earth, he lived in heaven with God. Heaven. I bet he really liked it there. I bet it was just the right temperature all the time, and the couch was just the right amount of broken in, and the view was absolutely spectacular.
And then one day God must have said something like, “Ok, I need you to go down there and teach them the right way to do things and then save them all—even the ones who hate you—by dying a really painful death.”
After hearing that, I wonder if Jesus gave God the side eye and said, “Come again?”
We don’t know if Jesus had reservations about coming to earth, but what we do know is that he showed up. He set aside his perfect eternity in heaven with God and submitted himself to the experience of being human. He came to earth to spend time teaching, healing and ultimately saving all of humankind.
Jesus Bent to Forgiveness
“The religion scholars…led in a woman who had been caught in an act of adultery…‘Teacher, this woman was caught red-handed in the act of adultery. Moses, in the Law, gives orders to stone such persons. What do you say?’… Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger in the dirt. They kept at him, badgering him. He straightened up and said, ‘The sinless one among you, go first: Throw the stone.’ Bending down again, he wrote some more in the dirt.” – John 8:3-8 excerpts (MSG)
We don’t know much about the woman in this story, but one thing we do know is that she was guilty. According to the laws handed down from Moses—and ultimately God himself—the penalty for adultery was stoning. The scholars who brought the woman to Jesus clearly wanted him to assert his power and enforce that penalty. But Jesus handled the situation differently.
When Jesus came to earth, he brought a new set of rules with him—a set of rules that begins and ends with love.
Love God. Love your neighbor. The end.
Rather than being motivated by laws and punishments, under the new covenant, we are motivated by God’s boundless love for us. We love because He first loved us.
Although we don’t know exactly what Jesus was writing, a thorough Google search reveals that based on Jeremiah 17:13 (“…Those who turn away from You will be written in the dust because they have forsaken the Lord…”) many modern day scholars suggest that Jesus was writing a list of sins. Upon seeing the list—perhaps with their names written alongside—the people so ready to throw life-ending stones, instead, quickly and quietly walked away.
It would have been really easy for Jesus to punish the woman. History has plenty of examples of people who let power go to their head at the expense of others. And he had good reason, too. She was caught “red-handed.”
But Jesus knew that people are more than their bad moments.
He knew there was more to the story, more to her story.
So instead of condemnation, Jesus bent to love.
Instead of punishment, he bent to forgiveness.
Instead of asserting his power over the woman, he literally bent down and erased her sin.
Jesus Bent to the Least of These
“Later Jesus and his disciples were at home having supper with a collection of disreputable guests…The religion scholars and Pharisees saw him keeping this kind of company and lit into his disciples: ‘What kind of example is this, acting cozy with the misfits?” – Mark 2:15-16 (MSG)
The NIV translation of the Bible reports that those “disreputable guests” were “tax collectors and sinners.” The scholars expected Jesus to act like the king they hoped him to be—a king who kept company with other royalty. One who ruled over tax collectors and sinners, not had dinner with them.
It’s interesting that the Pharisees asked what kind of example he was setting by spending time with the “misfits.” Jesus knew exactly what kind of example he was setting. He was showing us how to carry on in his absence.
Jesus showed us how to bend to others, and not just the ones who look like us and sound like us and act like us. Jesus spent time with people that the Pharisees thought were beneath him. He offered hope and encouragement to those who needed it most—those who society considered outcasts. As followers of Jesus, we are called to do the same.
Jesus Bent to Service
“So he got up from the supper table, set aside his robe, and put on an apron. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the feet of the disciples, drying them with his apron.” – John 13:4-5 (MSG)
We don’t have to look too far to see how this act of service was perceived by the disciples. In verse 8, Peter protests immediately saying, “You’re not going to wash my feet—ever!”
Foot washing was something that servants did. Jesus was the master, the teacher, the boss, the leader—not a lowly servant.
Verse 3 tells us that “Jesus knew that the Father had put him in complete charge of everything.” I don’t know about you, but if I knew I was in charge of everything, I’m pretty sure I would delegate the foot washing to somebody else.
The disciples walked in sandals all day long through dust and dirt. Their feet were filthy. And yet, Jesus bent to the task of serving his very best friends in an intimate and personal way.
This story shows us that loving people can be a messy business. It shows us that sometimes a good leader needs to sacrifice their own comfort for the good of the group.
Jesus Bent to the Needs of Others
“But Jesus, again crying out loudly, breathed his last.” – Matthew 27:50 (MSG)
Jesus died for us.
And not just any death. The worst, most brutal, most painful, most humiliating death there was. He allowed himself to be beaten up, spit on, dragged out and strung up. He endured the pain of nails being hammered into his hands and ankles. He suffered through hours and hours of torture, even though he had committed no crime. He followed through with God’s plan even though he didn’t want to.
Matthew 26:39 (MSG) tells us that Jesus “fell on his face, praying, ‘My Father, if there is any way, get me out of this.” Jesus knew what was coming and he didn’t like it. But the second part of that verse gives us an incredibly important example of how to live our own lives.
After asking God to get him out of saving all of humanity by willingly submitting to death on a cross, Jesus goes on to say to God, “But please, not what I want. You, what do you want?”
Sitting there on his knees in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus knew what God wanted him to do. Putting aside his own frustrations and fears, his own anger and sadness, Jesus marched his way to the cross and did what God asked him to do. He submitted himself to our need for a Savior—to do the thing we couldn’t do. Jesus died to save us.
The least we can do when we face frustrations, fears and sadness in our own lives is get on our knees and ask this one important question: “Jesus, what would you do?”
Would you post this comment on Facebook?
Would you get involved in this conversation?
Would you forgive this person who hurt me so badly?
Would you be kind to this person who is so different from me?
Would you love this person that I absolutely can’t stand?
Would you respect this leader who I disagree with?
Before we think or do or say, let’s commit to asking Jesus first. Let’s ask him what we can learn. Let’s ask him to show us a different viewpoint. Let’s ask him to help us understand.
And let’s bend to love, just like he did for us.