A case for contemplative Christian practice.
WWJD? (What would Jesus do?) has become a Christian pop-culture adage since taking bumper stickers, key chains, T-shirts, and apparently pacifiers by storm in the late ‘90’s.
I propose a re-vamp.
What would Jesus do, before he would do? He would be.
Jesus had a direct connection to his Father, God, which allowed him to do what he did in the complete and perfect way he did things. So before we attempt to imitate his doings (WWJD?), we have to connect as well. We have to stop “our own” doing, and ask instead, How would Jesus be? USC Philosophy Professor Dallas Willard asks, “But is it possible to be like Jesus? Can we actually have the character of the heavenly Father?”In his article, Looking Like Jesus Willard answers, “YES!”, and outlines how. One of the Jesus-being components is this direct-God-connection. We can’t expect to live and do as Jesus did without having this connection, this state-of-being that directly flows from God. Seemingly contradictory at first, our being with God may be developed by doing the spiritual disciplines that Jesus practiced, such as contemplative prayer and meditation.
So, how would Jesus be?
Jesus would be still, quiet, and solitary…
- While it was still night, way before dawn, he got up and went out to a secluded spot and prayed. —Mark 1:35
- As often as possible Jesus withdrew to out-of-the-way places for prayer. —Luke 5:16
He would be heartfelt and engrossed in his prayer practices…
- Here’s what I want you to do: Find a quiet, secluded place so you won’t be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace. —Matthew 6:6
He would be inspired by the encouragement of God’s word…
- Be still, and know that I am God. —Psalm 46:10
- On the glorious splendor of your majesty, and on your wondrous works, I will meditate. —Psalm 145:5
- Within your temple*, O God, we meditate on your unfailing love. —Psalm 48:9
In his book, The Spirit of the Disciplines: Understanding How God Changes Lives, Willard summarizes the whole concept beautifully, “We can become like Christ–by following the overall style of life he chose for himself. If we have faith in Christ, we must believe He knew how to live. What activities did Jesus practice? Such things as fasting, solitude, watching, praying, intense study and meditation upon God’s Word and God’s ways… Some of these will certainly be even more necessary to us than they were to him, because of our greater need. The secret of the easy yoke, then… is to live and prepare ourselves for life as he did, so that we can be the kind of people who behave ‘on the spot’ like Christ. ““When we inwardly experience the heavenly sweetness and power of life—the love, joy, and peace—that Jesus knew, that is the work of the Spirit in us.”
Before we can DO like Jesus, we have to open ourselves up to be DONE THROUGH. We have to be with him to learn his doings. Then we will truly feast on all the fruits that we yearn for in our existence…and we can rightly ask, “What would Jesus do?” and act upon it accordingly.
What happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely. Since this is the kind of life we have chosen, the life of the Spirit, let us make sure that we do not just hold it as an idea in our heads or a sentiment in our hearts, but work out its implications in every detail of our lives. —Galatians chapter 5
So, should we get T-shirts?
*Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? —1 Corinthians 6:19