I’m afraid, my friends, that I have shocking news: it’s time to turn in your plastic WWJD bracelet. Yes, it was cool to own them in the ’90s. Yes, the plaque version paired nicely with Precious Moments figurines. But when the acronym started appearing on boxer shorts, diaper bags and, yes, shower curtains, we all knew, deep down, it was time for a change.
Let me propose an alternative. It comes from a book titled When Bad Christians Happen to Good People, a discussion of the hurtful (and dumb) things people do in the name of Christianity. The title of Chapter 3 caught my attention as an alternative to WWJD:
“WJSHTOT?” Would Jesus spend his time on this?
Sadly, if we asked ourselves that question throughout our days, the answer would probably be no. For example, consider the time we spend being jealous of others, judging others or jostling others so we can get ahead. How about the time we waste in front of the television getting angry about the election? Or consider the ten million people in this country who burn a significant part of their days playing Pokémon Go.
ISDI. (I seriously doubt it.)
Perhaps we should all get WJSHTOT bracelets to remind us to reexamine our lives, to reconsider how we waste our precious hours, and to review what we leave behind as our legacy.
A great film about legacy and priorities is the comedy City Slickers. OK, so it’s not Citizen Kane, but the scene about the meaning of life between Billy Crystal, who plays Mitch, a man having a mid-life crisis who decides to go on a cattle drive, and Curly, the trail boss (played by Jack Palance) is worth the entire movie:
Curly: Do you know what the secret of life is? [Holds up one finger.] This.
Mitch: Your finger?
Curly: One thing. Just one thing. You stick to that and the rest don’t mean *#!@.
Mitch: But what is the “one thing”?
Curly: That’s what you have to find out.
Obviously, Curly hadn’t dusted off his Bible in a while, because Jesus tells us clear as day what that one thing is in Luke 10:27: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.”
And please understand, Jesus didn’t mean the word “love” in a Hallmark kind of way. Love, for Jesus, was a battle cry. It was his marching order. And if you don’t think love should be framed in military terms, FYI: there is a battle going on.
A battle to reclaim justice. A battle to regain righteousness. A battle to fight bigotry, ignorance and hatred until they are no more.
Love was Jesus’s battle cry — and it has to be ours too.
Consider the headlines: terrorism, global warfare, starvation, homelessness, and, of course, racism in America.
I was raised in the 1960s South, and as much as we like to brag about how far America has come in terms of race, I’m not sure much has changed. Just look at the current statistics: the infant mortality rate in the black population is more than twice that of whites, black men are six times as likely as white men to be incarcerated, and 136 black people have been killed by police since January 2016.
A battle is raging. But we have to make sure that we fight that battle with love and not violence. A great example of this is the 2016 Olympic Committee’s decision to include refugee athletes. Rather than shun them, close them out, and ignore their plight like most Western nations, the committee has invited a 10-person refugee team to compete for the first time in Olympic history. This team is a symbol of hope for refugees worldwide and a statement bringing global attention to the refugee crisis.
Fighting this battle with love is exactly what First Lady Michelle Obama suggested in her recent convention speech. Speaking about the hateful racial and religious language spewed against her husband, Mrs. Obama shared their family motto: “When they go low, we go high.”
What if we did the same? What if we turned the full strength of love against the forces of hatred, ignorance and fear that are tearing our global community apart? What if we stopped squandering our time and began spending our precious hours leaving this planet and its inhabitants better than we found it?
Here’s one suggestion. This week spend five minutes reviewing your to do list. Remove three things that are a waste of your energy and add in their place three acts of kindness. Maybe that means volunteering your time at a food pantry or an adult literacy program. Perhaps your act of kindness is listening without judgment to someone in need. Or maybe the act of kindness is for yourself, so that you will then have the strength to go out into the world and continue the fight.
And we must continue the fight. As the theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer explained, “The ultimate test of a moral society is the kind of world that it leaves to its children.”
What kind of world are we leaving behind?
How do we spend our time, our gifts, our lives?
“WJSHTOT?” If the answer is no, then change things. Not tomorrow, but today. Change them now, for our answer to WJSHTOT should always be YHDW.
Yes, he definitely would.