Do everything in love.
1 Corinthians 16:14 (NIV)
A number of years ago there was a fad that caught on among Christians. The acronym WWJD was printed and hocked by every manner of trinket maker from bracelets to t-shirts to wallets and . I imagine most people still remember that the initials stood for the question “What Would Jesus Do?” It became a pervasive for a time in our culture to the point that it has also been parodied and mocked.
What many people don’t know is that the popularity of the question is rooted in an ancient concept, “imitatio dei,” which among Protestants gained wide-spread popularity after a book called In His Steps (by Charles M. Sheldon) was published in 1898. The book tells the story of a man who decides that he is not going to do anything without first asking “What would Jesus do?” and then acting on the answer. The book chronicles his struggles and the ways the simple act changes his life and relationships.
Along my spiritual journey I’ve occasionally mulled over the WWJD question when facing a particular decision or relational dilemma. Quite honestly, the challenge I always run into is trying to connect the limited number of stories about Jesus told by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John and extrapolating what Jesus would do in my specific situation were he to be standing in my twenty-first century loafers. Sometimes it’s an easy reach, but sometimes it’s not.
No disrespect to Charles Sheldon or the WWJD minions, but I have found that the question “What Would Love Do?” (based on Paul’s description in his letter to the believers in Corinth) is sometimes an easier connection though just as difficult to actually act upon. Paul ends his letter to the Corinthians telling them to “do everything in love” and John wrote that God is love. So if I’m doing what love would do, I am by extension doing what Jesus would do. The thing about the question “What Would Love Do?” (WWLD) is that it comes with a complete subset of questions with which to think through my motives and potential actions:
- Love is patient. What is the patient thing to do or say?
- Love is kind. What would be the kind thing to do or say?
- Love does not envy. Am I acting or speaking out of personal discontent and/or envy of another persons being or blessings?
- Love does not boast. Am I acting or speaking from a position of porosity or pride? Am I trying to look good for others? Am I trying to prove something for my own benefit or self-gratification?
- Love does not dishonor others. How can I act and speak in such a way that I am “attaching worth” to the person(s) I’m dealing with?
- Love is not self-seeking. What action would be in others interests or to others benefit rather than my own?
- Love is not easily angered. Am I reacting instinctually, mindlessly and/or emotionally? What do I need to do to avoid a mindless emotional reaction in order to respond in a deliberate, loving way?
- Love keeps no record of wrongs. Have I truly chosen to forgive others in this situation? Will I let go of my right to be right, or relinquish my right to what I think would be a just outcome?
- Love does not delight in evil. Would my words or actions instigate or perpetuate a “disruption of shalom” in this situation?
- Love rejoices in the truth. Would my words or actions bring clarity and sow life, peace and love in the situation?
- Love always protects. What words or actions would best protect both myself and others from further injury and any further disruption of shalom?
- Love always trusts. What words or actions would relinquish my selfish desire to control and activate the faith necessary to allow God to truly have Lordship over myself and others?
- Love always hopes. What words or actions would allow for the sowing, cultivation and harvest of Spirit-fruit in the situation and in relationships (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, self-control)?
- Love always perseveres. What words or actions would allow for life, love, and reconciliation further along in the journey, even if it does not seem possible in this moment?
Have a good day, my friends. Shalom.