Why do we presume to know what Jesus would do about a complex social issue? As Christians we are responsible to live our lives in a way that pleases Jesus, following His lead. But complex social issues go beyond our own individual lives. They involve the lives of sometimes millions of people.
I had a discussion with someone the other day about the issue of immigration. Regardless of what side you come down on this issue you must admit it is complex. There are many moving parts and variables to consider. Its extremely difficult to know the right answers to for this issue. If it wasn’t difficult and complex it would have been solved already.
The most interesting takeaway from the discussion was when the individual said, “Jesus would…”. We do this often and frankly it is not only presumptive, but fairly arrogant on our part. Jesus is God. He knows much more than we do. He knows all the facts and all the factors involved; we don’t.
There was a book written at the end of the 19th century titled “In His Steps”. The book tells the story of a life changing event that hits a town. The town begins to ask the question, “What Would Jesus Do?” before they made decisions or took actions about important matters. That question became popular again not too long ago when people began wearing ‘WWJD’ articles like bracelets, necklaces, etc.
The practice of asking what Jesus would do for the decisions in our life is actually a great idea. As Christians we are followers of Jesus. It is for us to live our lives the way Jesus lived His. So it is critical that we examine how He lived. How did respond in different situations? How did he treat people? What did the many lessons He taught mean?
But to try and apply this to complex social issues is to misuse this important self-discipline. As Christians we are responsible to live our lives in a way that pleases Jesus, following His lead. But complex social issues go beyond our own individual lives. They involve the lives of sometimes millions of people.
Paul took great care in addressing a social issue that was only slightly complex when he addressed the practice of eating food offered to idols (1 Corinthians 8:1-13). He warned against thinking we know more than we do. In this passage Paul tells us that some can with a good conscience eat the food that had been offered to idols, while others do not have this same liberty in their lives due to their experiences and current knowledge. Paul could have instructed by saying, “Jesus would eat the food offered to idols”. But he didn’t. He taught us to be patient and considerate of one another and if need be sacrifice our own liberty for the good of a brother. In this fairly simple issue Paul showed us there are different ways to address the issue.
Complex social issues like immigration have many fingers. Why do people want to come to the US from their home country? The quick answer given in almost every case ‘is to have a better life’. Is it possible Jesus would address the issue by improving their home country so they could have that better life there?
We absolutely should concern ourselves with the welfare of people all over the world and do what we believe God is instructing us to do in addressing the needs. That may differ for different people. When it comes to individual actions, ‘one size does not fit all’. But we mustn’t presume to know what Jesus would do to fix the issue. He is all knowledge, He is all power. We can be a part of His solution, but we cannot know His solution in such complex matters.