[Pilate] knew that the leaders of the people had handed [Jesus] over because of jealousy… The governor asked, “Which of the two do you want me to release to you?” “Barabbas,” they replied. Pilate said, “Then what should I do with Jesus who is called Christ?” They all said, “Crucify him!” But he said, “Why? What wrong has he done?” They shouted even louder, “Crucify him!” Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere and that a riot was starting. So he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. “I’m innocent of this man’s blood,” he said. “It’s your problem.” (Matthew 27:18; 21-24)
Raise your hands if you know what that acronym stands for?
If you were a good and faithful Christian in the 90’s, you’d know.
In fact, if you were a real Christian, you probably got the wrist band to be reminded of WWJD. But if you got a tattoo of WWJD in the 90’s… well, that put you in a conundrum because would Jesus really get a tattoo? Hmmm?
What would Jesus do?
That was what we were encouraged to ask when faced with a moral dilemma; when confronted with a crossroad; when trying to determine where to eat with a group. Okay, may not that last part.
WWJD was supposed to help us emulate Jesus; to be like Jesus.
But if you were a degenerate like myself (keyword being were), it didn’t help much.
At best, it helped me get better at rationalizing, justifying, and excuse-making. Or even copping out with phrases like, “I’m not Jesus, so I have no idea.”
At worst, it helped me create a Jesus after my image.
Jesus slowly started liking what/who I would like; Jesus slowly started disliking what/who I would dislike.
Really, WWJD would be ineffective because we really wouldn’t do what Jesus would do. We’d do what we’d want to do and sprinkle Jesus on it so that we’d feel good about ourselves.
Perhaps the better question; the more effective question (at least for folks like me) would’ve been What did Jesus do?
We could argue hours on end about what Jesus would do.
WWJD is heavily determined by who we believe Jesus to be.
We bring in our own biases; perspectives; desires; POVs; our own Jesuses.
What would Jesus do became what would I like Jesus to do.
But what if we were to ask what did Jesus do?
Sure — that comes with its own biases and POV’s, after all we humans don’t see things as they are but as we are. It is, I feel, far more concrete than praying about what Jesus would do.
And what did Jesus do?
Well, in his words:
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,Luke 4:18-19 CEB
because the Lord has anointed me.
He has sent me to preach good news to the poor,
to proclaim release to the prisoners
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to liberate the oppressed,
and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.
While I understand that what I say next can be debated ad nauseam, what Jesus did was to stand with the poor; the prisoners; the oppressed.
The most eye opening part of Goats and Sheep parable is that Jesus identifies himself with the least of these. He says when I was hungry; when I was thirsty; when I was naked; when I was a stranger; when I was sick; when I was prison.
What did Jesus do?
He was crucified for challenging the empire rather than embracing the power that were. Jesus is Lord is a direct (and a punishable-by-death) challenge to Caesar, for there can be only one Lord.
What did Jesus do?
He challenged the religious temple system and called them out for their exploitation of the poor; their self-righteousness; their penchant to be exclusive; their unwillingness to love their neighbor that didn’t look/think/live like them.
So then, what should I do?
Being apolitical seems to be an honorable thing amongst many Christians.
“I don’t get involved in politics. It’s just me and Jesus, brother.”
“Nah, man. We can’t bring politics into our church. That doesn’t belong here, brother.”
“That’s Caesar stuff. Give Caesar what’s Caesar’s. But for me and my household, we’re gonna follow the Lord.” “….. Brother.”
How many of you preachers ever got the complaint “your sermon was too political?”
And how many of those complaints were because they didn’t agree with your interpretation of the scriptures for that particular Sunday?
Truth is, you can preach a very “political” sermon as long as “they” agree with it because for them, it wouldn’t be political.
But I’ll tell you what — they’d have a problem with Jesus. Because remember, Jesus is Lord was the most political statement our Christian ancestors could say (because Caesar was lord).
In no certain terms am I saying that a preacher should tell her listeners how to vote. That’s inappropriate and gross.
But we certainly can’t avoid justice issues in our preaching and ministries, after all, what does God require from us mortals but to do justice, embrace faithful love, and walk humbly with God? Of course, for some that’ll be too political.
Being apolitical; being neutral; being uninvolved is a political statement you are making.
And a harmful one at that. Because our silence; our refusal to get involved (even with well-intentions — but the path to hell is paved by well-intentions); our insistence on being neutral, I’d submit to you that that’s not very Christ-like because, again — what did Jesus do?
He didn’t get crucified because he was a nice dude or a moral teacher or gentle soul. He got crucified because he took a stand — not with the empire or those in power but with the poor, hungry, oppressed, downtrodden, outcasts, etc.
I feel that Pilate Pontius speaks for many well-intentioned Christians.
Like Pilate, we wash our hands free of our responsibility to do something because we don’t want to get involved. But Pilate’s insistence of not getting involved caused tremendous harm to the innocent.
It’s no different today.
While we may think it may be a source of pride not to get involved — our silence will cause more harm than good.
This insistence in being neutral and uninvolved is not noble and not Christ-like.
Richard Rohr writes in Jesus’ New Plan for the World that we must take sides. He writes that we cannot build a bridge from the middle — that we need to choose which side to start from. He argues that Jesus insisted that we start from the side of the poor; the oppressed; the silenced because if we start from the side of the powerful and rich, we simply may not want to finish the bridge — or even start.
Jesus always started on the side of the least of these — not only that, he identified with the least of these.
That’s what Jesus did.
We’re called to do the same.
We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Wherever men and women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must – at that moment – become the center of the universe.Elie Wiesel’s Nobel Prize Speech
I’m sure I didn’t catch all of my grammatical mistakes. You have to forgive me, if you’re a Christian cuz Jesus said so. I hope you were still able to make out what I was trying to get at. Thank you for reading.