Back when I was in college, I overheard a classmate talking about how she wanted to buy her boyfriend a cross—as in the kind you wear around your neck—but her boyfriend was very particular about his crosses and would only wear one made of wood, and wooden crosses were hard to come by these days. When he looked at crosses made of gold or silver or other precious materials, he insisted, “God wouldn’t wear something like that.”
To which I responded, even though it was none of my business, “Why would God be wearing a cross necklace in the first place?”
For sure, I have nothing against wearing cross necklaces. If you want to wear a cross as a symbol of your faith or as a reminder of what Jesus did for you, I think that’s a beautiful thing. I also think it doesn’t matter what material it’s made out of, but if wood seems like the best material for you, a wooden cross is what you should wear because it’s your cross. I just don’t think it works to invoke the argument of what God would do in this situation because regardless of whether or not God is a jewelry sort of guy—and He may be, for all I know (or She may be, for all I know)—I’m thinking a cross may not be on His list of preferred ornaments. I mean, what would be the point? You wear a cross because you worship Christ (or, alternatively, are Madonna). God is God and doesn’t worship anybody—not even Himself because, well, He’s God. It’s just not necessary.
I think that the question “What Would Jesus Do?” is very useful for Christians in a lot of instances—maybe even most instances—but as in the story of the Elusive Wooden Cross, it is not always relevant. Jesus came to earth with a pretty specific mission—atone for the sins of the world, die and raise himself from the dead—and I imagine the nature of that mission informed most of his choices. That Jesus would be kind and merciful to others is a no-brainer. What specifically Jesus would do to bring peace to the world and counter evil is a question that Jesus has already answered; in point of fact, he’s already done it. What all Jesus would do if he were, say, me is a question that has no answer because Jesus is not me, and I am not him; our missions in life are different. I’m not capable of atoning for the sins of mankind, nor of raising myself from the dead. By the same token, Jesus couldn’t have given birth to four children without performing a miracle that probably none of us is comfortable imagining. But do you get what I’m saying? It doesn’t matter. It’s a ridiculous proposition, Jesus giving birth. We don’t need to think about it.
A few months ago there was a comment on some blog in the Bloggernacle somewhere (I don’t remember—it could have been here, for all I know, but my point is that I don’t) about how it seemed really unlikely that Jesus would take a job as a weapons manufacturer. I will grant you that it does seem unlikely, and yet I’m having a hard time picturing Jesus taking a job anywhere. Would Jesus work at Wal-Mart? Would Jesus be an attorney? Would Jesus open his own small business? If so, what sort of benefits would he offer his employees? How much would he pay them? When Jesus was actually here on earth, near as I can tell, he didn’t have a profession or a permanent home. He traveled around the country preaching the gospel and relying on the hospitality of others. Would Jesus buy a house? If so, how many square feet would he need? Well, I guess it depends on whether or not he’s going to have a family. Wait—is he going to have a family? How many kids is he planning on having? Will they be going to public school, or private? Or will they be homeschooled? Wait—homeschooled by whom? By Jesus or his wife? Would Jesus get married? Would his wife work outside the home? We have absolutely no way of knowing the answers to these questions. Some of them are relatively inconsequential, sure, but some of them do have moral implications, and they are issues we have to resolve in our own lives without specific lessons from Jesus’s life to guide us.
Some thornier questions to grapple with: Would Jesus join the military? Would he become a police officer? I don’t know about the rest of you, but I don’t really see Jesus carrying a gun and shooting people or threatening to shoot people. And yet there are perfectly decent and moral citizens who do exactly this sort of thing in order to protect society from criminals and other aggressors. What would Jesus do to defend innocent people from other people’s acts of evil? Do we as humans not have a moral obligation to fight evil in our own spheres? But we can’t do it the same way Jesus did because a) we’re not divine and b) …well, now that I think on it, (a) pretty much covers it.
Several years ago I was in a Relief Society class where the teacher had some sisters role-playing a scenario between a mother and a daughter, where the daughter had overslept and the frustrated mother was trying to get her out of bed and the two just blew up at each other and had a big fight. Then the teacher had the women role-play the scenario where each participant “responded with love.” Predictably, that one went a lot more pleasantly, but being the sort of person I am, I turned to my neighbor and muttered, “Now let’s see it again where only ONE of them responds with love.” Needless to say, that scenario was not modeled for us.
What does this have to do with Jesus? Well…Jesus said love everyone. But as my firstborn child so eloquently put it when she was but six years old, “That’s impossible! You’re not supposed to love bad guys!” Well, technically, yes, you are—but what does that mean, exactly? How does one “love” someone who is destructive, who is hell-bent on doing evil? You can pray for patience, understanding, the ability to forgive, etc., but what exactly do you DO with this person? How would Jesus deal with a child molester? Would Jesus sentence someone to life in prison without possibility of parole? God wants his people to be one, but how do we go about becoming one with people who a) aren’t remotely interested in becoming one with us and b) subscribe to values that are diametrically opposed to our own? It takes two to tango, and it takes two to become one. One of these days Jesus will come with healing in his wings and separate the wheat from the tares and whatnot, but in the meantime, what are we supposed to do? What exactly are we supposed to do?