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Asking “What would Jesus do” sounds like a great question. In itself, there is nothing wrong with it. But it is a question that has the potential to lead believers away from better knowing, understanding, and living out what Jesus did and who He is. Allow me to explain.
In John 14:12a, Jesus states: “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do.” The truth that Christ builds upon in this verse is based on the rest of the text in the chapter. What is laid out in verses 1-14 is that behaving like Christ must be based on a heart that intimately and covenantly knows Christ and thinks like Christ (e.g., Philippians 2). But verse John 14:12 makes it abundantly clear that those who know Christ are people who do what Christ did, rather than being those who live in constant speculation about what Jesus would do.
This point may seem like a minor issue. Still, the danger in living by the question “What would Jesus do” is that such an ideology easily enables moral discernment about what is pleasing to God and appropriate for a situation to be a matter of a person’s wisdom and feelings. Such a question does not require that individuals arrive at an answer based on the biblical Jesus. Stated otherwise, asking WWJD allows for trusting in my thoughts and ideas about who God is rather than establishing my thinking and behaviors on the Word of God.
In contrast to asking “what would Jesus do,” asking questions, such as what does Scripture reveal that Jesus did, what did Jesus say in Scripture, and who is the biblical Jesus, better allow our decisions to flow from the Written and Living Words of God rather than our ideas about the Savior. Asking who Jesus is, what Jesus has said, and what Jesus has done while searching Scripture for these answers and asking many wise counselors for biblical insight is a safeguard against forming a skewed view of God and subsequent poor life choices.
Moreover, asking the right questions and to the right counselors affirms that a person depends upon the sufficiency and authority of Scripture to produce necessary changes in thinking, emotions, and behaviors (2 Peter 1:1-10). More specifically, the apostle Paul asked a question immediately upon being converted that provides believers with a better approach to making wise decisions: “Who are you, Lord?” This desire to know God leads to obedience to God’s Word and the ability to do what God has done rather than mental anguish over what He would do.
Asking WWJD is certainly not sinful, but we must be careful not to allow such a question to shape our worldview and guide our life’s decisions. Instead, we must continually go to God’s Word to ask who Christ is and what He has done. Asking the right biblical question enables God’s Word to be the authority and wisdom that guides our lives and establishes the Word of God as the genuine lamp unto our feet and light unto our path (Psalm 119:105).
Dr. Daniel R. Berger II is the founder and director of Alethia International Ministries (AIM), where he continues to write and to speak around the country in various churches, organizations, medical communities, and at various counseling and teacher’s conferences. He is also an experienced pastor, counselor, school administrator, and the author of ten books on Biblical counseling, practical theology, education, and the history and philosophy of the current mental health construct. Daniel earned his B.S. in counseling, an M.S. in counseling/ psychology, an M.A. in pastoral studies, and a doctorate in pastoral theology. Daniel is also an adjunct professor at several Universities and seminaries-including serving as the director of a post-grad degree at SEBI (Brasilia, Brazil) in Biblical Counseling, which is specifically focused on understanding the various aspects of the construct of mental illness from a biblical worldview.