Saturday, March 11, 2006

The Modern Church and the WWJD Question

Jan of TheViewfromHer has one of the most interesting blogs around. Go read her interesting post called WWJD, in which she challenges the notion of presuming to ask, "What would Jesus do?"

I left some comments at her blog. They're presented, with links, and edited for clarity below:
I take your point about Christian art, or what passes for Christian art. It's often marginally Christian and not really art.

I also take your point about the WWJD slogan. An acquaintance of mine once said that the real question for all of us is, "What has Jesus done?" What, in other words, has He accomplished for us through His life, death, and resurrection? That action calls for the response of faith that will have as seeking to live like true disciples. (I accept Dallas Willard's definition of discipleship as striving to live our lives as though Jesus were us.)

But of course, the minute I say, "I can't live like Jesus because I'm not God," a true statement, I run into some troubling things that Jesus said. Among the most troubling are His words in John 14:12: "Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in Me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father..."

The New Testament book of Acts reports that the first-century Church performed many miraculous signs on the order of those performed by Jesus...and more. I don't remember, for example, that when people sat in the shadow of Jesus, they were cured of their diseases; that happened with Peter.

Acts emphasizes repeatedly that a Church in prayerful dependence on Christ, Who was acting as their advocate and intermediary with the Father, did amazing things. In essence, they did what Jesus did, including getting themselves killed for their faith. (That's another thing that Jesus had promised His followers would happen, in John 16:33 and elsewhere.)

Of course, the miracles performed by Jesus and the early Church were never meant to be ends in themselves. They were semeia (signs) pointing to Christ's power to bring about eternal transformations to those who repent and believe in Jesus. As many have observed, Jesus didn't heal every leper, raise every dead person to life, feed all the hungry, or cast out every demon in Judea. Nor did He stay in every town He visited until He worked every wonder He could have possibly done. This fact, in itself points out that we Christians shouldn't get hung up on miracles. God grants them only when they have something to do with telling people about His redemeptive power.

Another thing about miracles, which William Willimon talks about in his wonderful commentary on Acts, is that no two miracles performed by Jesus or the disciples were precisely the same. Each one was meant to be a unique sign of Christ's power and love, pointing to His ultimate triumph for us over sin and death.

I believe that a modern Church that prays "Your will be done" could also do a lot of miraculous signs in Jesus' Name, so long as there is a concomitant willingness to follow Jesus to the cross and beyond. (There's the rub, for me anyway.)


jan@theviewfromher said...

Thanks again Mark, for the link! You know, as I wrote that post, I was wrestling with other things Jesus said, like the whole faith like a mustard seed thing and telling us we could move a mountain. And other miracles he said we could do or ask for. Could we really do what Jesus did? You're right - the answer is yes, but only if we're also willing to die. Thanks so much for this post...I feel like you filled out my original post so much more. You continue to sharpen my thinking.

Mark Daniels said...

Thanks for taking the time to write these gracious comments. I really enjoy and appreciate what you write.

God bless!