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There is a slogan making the rounds in church circles (especially in the U.S.) which asks "What would Jesus do?" It is abbreviated WWJD? and the letters feature on everything from T-shirts to jewellery. They act both as a reminder to the person wearing them and as an opening to a Christian witness when the uninformed ask what they stand for.

We love the slogan, because we want to get Christians literally following the teachings of Jesus instead of following the various doctrines which have been created in his name. We believe that a Christian is a follower and imitator of Jesus; so anything that gets people thinking about what Jesus would do in any given circumstance is a step in the right direction.

Parents especially find the WWJD? practice helpful in getting their young people to stay on the straight and narrow. Young people refrain from smoking, drinking, swearing, telling dirty jokes, and associating with unseemly characters as a response to the question whenever it comes up in their mind. They behave respectfully, go to church regularly, and avoid sexual contact with others.

But we are still concerned that this new trend is being heavily influenced by a misunderstanding with regard to who the real Jesus is. Too many young people are asking themselves "What would a false Jesus (or Jesuses) do?" (WWFJD?) and the answers they are coming up with do not resemble the real biblical Jesus of history.

We must confess that some of the false Jesuses have reunited families, enabled people to get off drugs, to avoid bad social influences, and to stop gambling. They have brought people back to church meetings and Bible studies, reformed criminals, helped people to overcome stress, to stay healthier, to find jobs, and to gain promotions. Much of this is commendable. But the one thing they do not do is to save souls. Not one person will find eternal life through the false Jesuses that exist only in their imaginations.

Reforms can be accomplished through government organisations, through service clubs, and through other individuals and organisations which make no claim to giving eternal life. But eternal life is something that can only come from God himself. It is a miracle of such proportions that you can be sure that there will be no room for cheating on the instructions to obtain it. If you really want to receive eternal life, then it would pay you to read the fine print carefully, and not to fall for any counterfeits.

Last night I had a dream. I had purchased an extremely cheap non-refundable ticket on an ocean cruise... something I've often dreamed of being able to afford. But when I got to the docks, I discovered that the cruise "ship" was an inflatable dingy, which was so constructed that if I were to move at all on it, it would simply sink. Nothing I could do would make the "ship" live up to my expectations, and it was too late to get a refund.

This is how it is with false Jesuses. They may work fine when it comes to some social issues, like helping people to adjust to life in modern society. But when you move out onto the oceans of life after death, they are totally useless. And by the time most people realise that, it is too late to get a refund.

I would like to discuss a number of different types of false Jesuses that have confused people, and which have actually led them away from the genuine Jesus of the Bible. There is a lot of overlap between these various Jesuses, and some will almost seem to be identical, since most of us have borrowed from several to get a vague picture in our minds of how Jesus would act in various circumstances.

We'll start with the Orthodox Jesus. This is the one that follows the fundamental doctrinal teachings of whatever church he happens to be attending. The Orthodox Jesus would never think to question or challenge local church teachings, although he would definitely challenge the teachings of any group that was labelled a cult, or otherwise identified as being outside the mainstream of orthodoxy. Obviously, this Jesus contradicts the Jesus of the Bible, who was actually executed as a heretic by the orthodox religious leaders of his day.

Next, there is the Law-Abiding Jesus. This one would never think to disobey any of the laws of the land. He would regard the police force as upholders of righteousness, because they protect law-abiding citizens from the criminal elements in our society. This Jesus also contradicts the biblical Jesus, who was on the run from Jewish authorities for having broken certain regulations with regard to working on the Sabbath, and for having made some questionable statements about whether or not his followers needed to pay taxes. His hideout was finally discovered with the help of a traitor from his own gang, and he was arrested by the civil authorities on the grounds that his behaviour and teachings were a threat to the stability of the government. He was eventually executed as a common criminal.

Then there is the Patriotic Jesus. He loves his country, and would gladly lay down his life in defence of all that it stands for. But the real Jesus was instrumental in challenging the corruption that existed in his country. (It existed because of compromise between the religious authorities and the political authorities.) Jesus prophesied the destruction of his own country, which he said would serve as a stepping stone to the development of a better government that would be invisible and universal. He called this revolutionary new government "the kingdom of heaven".

Next there is the Traditional Jesus. The Traditional Jesus has many of the same traits that the Jesuses we have already listed have; but he also supports behaviours and practices which are not required by the laws of the land, but which are just part of the local culture. He is conservative, and he looks with suspicion on anyone who would try to change the traditional ways of doing things, whether it be religious practices or social taboos.

This is the one who promotes good table manners, Sunday worship, white shirts and ties, frequent use of terms like 'sir' and 'madam', and circumspect behaviour at all social events. By contrast, the real Jesus was not afraid to call religious leaders "damned hypocrites", to knock over tables in the Temple, to break Sabbath regulations, to associate with publicans and sinners, and to eat food with unwashed hands.

There are other similar Jesuses, such as the Polite Jesus, the Popular Jesus, the Successful Jesus, or the Respectable Jesus. They, too, always know how to behave in such a way as to avoid scandal, and not rock the boat. There is a great deal of unity between all of these various Jesuses, so that it is often difficult to tell one from the other. Unfortunately, aspects of each of these false Jesuses come to mind these days whenever you ask church-educated people, "What Would Jesus Do?" And they usually overlook what the real Jesus would do, as a result.

There has arisen yet another Jesus in recent years: He is the Trendy Jesus. At first glance, he appears to be nearer to the radical Jesus of the Bible. But on close examination, he is a disappointment too. The Trendy Jesus does choose to question the way things are going, but his suggestions for change always fall short of actually exposing all of the other Jesuses for the phonies that they are. What the Trendy Jesus wants is minor changes to the system without losing the support of the very system that he seeks to change.

Trendy Jesuses introduce new fads and gimmicks (such as WWJD? engraved on bracelets and necklaces), modern music, variations to the worship service, changes in dress regulations, emphases which reflect political trends toward increased environmental awareness, greater tolerance of racial, religious, and sexual differences, and moves to get the government (always the government, and not the Trendy Jesus himself) to help the poor, and right the wrongs of the world.

But we do not find either gimmicks or efforts to stir the government into action in the life and teachings of the real Jesus... the one who alone can give eternal life. And the reason for this is because the real Jesus was not trying to promote the systems of the world, or trying to achieve success in the eyes of the world around him. He was only interested in promoting faith in an omnipotent, eternal God.

He had come from heaven, and he knew that he would be returning to heaven. Eternal life was not going to be found in the systems of man, but only in harmony and fellowship with God the Father, the Creator of all life.

Whether you are a conformer or a reformer, what Jesus wants you to consider is becoming a spiritual revolutionary instead... one who has dropped out of the rat race and caught sight of an eternal kingdom which exists in the hearts of all those who have such faith in God. What would Jesus do? He would do like Abraham, and kill his own son if God told him to. He would cut off his hand before he would let it stop him from gaining eternal life. He would lay down his own life for God and for others. He would forsake everything that he owns to have eternal life. He would leave his family, his friends, his job, his home, and go into all the world preaching the good news of an eternal kingdom that only comes when we let go of all the other counterfeits.

Are you ready to become his follower, and do what he would do?

(See also Jesus the Revolutionary.)

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