Here are my thoughts for the 2nd Sunday in Lent.
A number of years ago there was a “movement” within the church asking “What would Jesus do?” There were bracelets, t-shirts, and other paraphernalia emblazoned with “WWJD.” I looked at this movement with something of a skeptic’s eye. It’s not that I was against such a movement but rather I always thought that the question should be “What would we do?”
Part of my skepticism/opposition arises because there was an attitude among some of its proponents (or so it seemed to me) that unless you bought into this attitude, you were not a true Christian. It is an attitude that is still somewhat prevalent today.
There are many today who have set requirements for salvation. You must be “born again.” You must be baptized at a certain age, under certain conditions and in a certain state of belief. You must be a member in good standing of a particular church. You must accept the authority of a doctrinal system without reference to one’s one knowledge or comprehension. You must avail yourself of the benefits of salvation that are only at the disposal of a given church through its prayers and sacraments. In others words, salvation depends on conditions and culture more so than your own decision and I have a hard time with that.
I have no doubts that I am a sinner for we are all sinners. But salvation is not based on what others say I should do but rather on what I do in relationship to Christ.
I do not recall any instance where Jesus told someone that they were doomed if they did not do what He said. Yes, He did say tell quite a few people that they should go and sin no more. But He did not tell those whom He encountered that they were doomed unless they explicitly followed His instructions.
What then makes us true Christians? Are the things that we do each day overt acts that reflect what others feel are the acts of Christians or are they, as Paul commands the Philippians (1), a reflection of what Jesus did and how He lived?
What did Jesus do? In the Gospel reading for today (2), Jesus was warned about the threats to His ministry and His life. His response was that He would be where He had been and He would be doing what He had been doing. He would be healing, teaching, and preaching the Good News. If those who opposed Him wanted Him, they knew where He would be.
Paul’s words today tell us that we should be imitating Christ. So what does that mean? It means that we should be out in the world, not condemning people but offering our aid, healing people, clothing the naked, feeding the hungry and giving hope to the oppressed.
We have become a culture of self-interest and in such a culture it is far easier to condemn others rather than help them. We hear God’s promise to Abram (3) and we think that such we are granted earthly riches. There is not doubt that God promised much to the Israelites but it was not simply a promise but the fulfillment of the covenant. And we have been raised to believe that hard work and sacrifice on our part will result in many rewards. In fact, this is the promise that many preachers today provide.
But that is not what Jesus said or even promised. Jesus, through His ministry, changed the covenant from the present to the future. Nowhere does Jesus offer us a promise that would be fulfilled in this time and age. His promise is one that will be fulfilled in Heaven.
Similarly, Paul tells us that those who live and work in the present will die. Only those who live with Christ in them and as Christ lived will gain the promise of the heavenly kingdom.
So, should we worry about what Jesus would do? I think not. We know what He did and what He would do if he were here. The question must be, should be, and will always be, “What Would You Do?”
(1) Philippians 3: 17 – 4: 1
(2) Luke 13: 31 – 35
(3) Genesis 15: 1 – 12, 17 – 18