What would Jesus do?
Do you remember the craze a few years ago for people to wear bracelets and badges with the letters WWJD on them? There were all sorts of other kinds of merchandise too, all with the same four letters – WWJD – What Would Jesus Do?
So, given the appalling mess our world is in, and in particular the horrific situation in Ukraine, what would Jesus do? And what might Jesus want us to do?
Our gospel reading gives us a first pointer. Luke portrays Jesus’ life as being on a journey, a journey which will end with his crucifixion and then resurrection. In the short passage we have just heard Jesus is told that his life is in danger, but he is determined to continue on his journey. He says he must go to Jerusalem, and he says that, even though he knows that he will be killed there, as have prophets before him.
Faced with a potentially difficult situation, Jesus does not run away, nor does Jesus try to ignore the problem. Jesus faces up to the context, however painful.
So, there is our first pointer for our response to the Ukrainian war. We cannot be ostriches and pretend it isn’t happening. Neither can we say it is so far away it doesn’t concern us. Let’s be brutally honest, Russia has nuclear weapons which could destroy Britain in a flash.
Facing up to the reality doesn’t mean we have to pack our kitbags and head east. But it does mean we as Christians are called to respond.
At the start of our New Testament reading St Paul, full of missionary zeal and never shy about coming forward, holds himself up to the people of Philippi as an example to be followed.
Paul flags up that there are people who are enemies of Christ, and they should not be used as role models. No, it is he and his companions who provide role models worth following. Why? Because they are living the pattern of a Christian life following on from the life of Christ himself.
Generation after generation has seen Christian role models and followed them. People have also met Christ himself in the Gospels and followed his pattern more directly.
And the pattern of living Christ gives us is one of love, for that’s God’s way. Love. That’s the foundation of the Kingdom of God. I’m sure you don’t need me to remind you that one of the Greek words for love is caritas – from which we get charity.
We can express love in practical ways, maybe by donating goods, or in financial ways, by donating to a fund such as the Disasters Emergency Committee.
Then again, sometimes it is our calling to bring wrongs to light, to speak out where we see injustice. That’s living love.
And we can express love day to day in the way we speak to others, the way we listen, and through our whole persona.
In that way not only are we following the pattern Christ gave us, we are also becoming role models for others who might never have given Jesus more than a glancing thought.
Living love is definitely what Jesus would do.
And St Paul also reminds the Philippians, and so us, that we are citizens of Heaven. As citizens of heaven we have rights and responsibilities.
Most importantly, probably, we need to keep in touch. We need to keep the lines of communication open, make sure the broadband is working if you like. Because we stay in touch using what I’ve seen described as the original Wi-Fi – that is prayer.
But why pray? What difference does it make when we pray for peace and things just seem to get worse?
Well part of that is a huge unknown question. It is a bit like a scaled-up version of the perennial question I was faced with as a hospital chaplain – why isn’t this person getting cured even though we are praying?
There are no easy answers. I’m sure most, if not all of us, would like God to intervene in Ukraine. But God doesn’t work like that. God created us to have free will – and to carry the consequences.
So why do we pray? I’m sure some of us say prayers because we feel so powerless, and we think that is better than doing nothing!
But prayer can be so much more than saying prayers. Prayer is about entering into a deep place with God, listening and maybe speaking. In the film Shadowlands, as his wife is dying, C S Lewis is heard to reflect that prayer doesn’t change God, it changes me.
If you have ever been to spend time with a religious community you may have been aware of a special atmosphere around its members. Or have you walked into a church and felt something more powerful than just air?
Prayed in places and people of prayer, develop a special something, an inner peace, and that affects not just them but also those around them. People of prayer grow more and more into the likeness of Christ and others notice.
But if the only reason to pray is for my own good isn’t that selfish? Yes, it would be!
I can’t begin to explain how it works, but God needs our prayers as part of the work of his Kingdom.
Many times sick people have told me they can feel themselves being held in others’ prayers, and that is often the case when they can’t find words to pray themselves. That’s why praying for those on our prayer list is so important.
I hope that somehow, in the midst of their pain and suffering, people in Ukraine can feel the prayers of the world reaching out to hold them, and that hearts may be touched.
All week, as I’ve been preparing for this morning, words of a hymn have been in my head. So I’ll leave my last words to the late Brian Wren –
This we can do for justice and for peace; we can pray, and work to answer prayers that other people say. This we can do in faith, and see it through – for Jesus is alive today! Amen.