The quintessential late ’90s and early 2000s Christian accessories—the WWJD bracelet, t-shirt, Bible cover, bumper sticker—were all derived from the 1896 book by Charles Sheldon, In His Steps: What Would Jesus Do? The titular question got a lot of people pondering what their decisions might look like if they acted as Jesus would. In some cases, the question brought clarity:
Q: Would Jesus steal this hubcap?
But, as even a casual read-through of the Gospels will show, Jesus didn’t always do what people thought he would do. He fell asleep sailing through storms, scribbled in the dirt instead of stoning sinners, and suffered on the cross as an innocent man instead of calling on an army of angels to avenge him.
So, as we quickly found out during the height of the WWJD craze, when we try to ask a simple question to find the answer to a complex scenario, it isn’t all that surprising that different people get different results:
Q: Would Jesus rob a bank to pay for a bankrupt person’s cancer treatment?
A: . . . ?
Q: Would Jesus start a war to stop a genocide?
A: . . . ?
Q: Would Jesus pull the plug on a patient who’d been classified as brain dead by doctors?
A: . . . ?
Recently, I had a conversation with some new friends about the state of affairs in our culture. One of them asked a question that takes WWJD to a deeper, truer level: What would I do if I weren’t afraid?
Granted, WWIDIIWA is not quite as bracelet-friendly as WWJD. At first glance, it even seems weaker because there’s no J in it. Or G (for God), for that matter. But for people who are sincerely trying to walk in the steps of Jesus, this question gets at the heart of what might be keeping us from acting in faith. It challenges our self-preservation instincts and exposes our fears, both of which keep us from being fully free to walk in the steps of Jesus.
What would I do if I weren’t afraid?
Certain hurts and losses have brought me maturity and growth, but they’ve simultaneously strengthened my impulse to reinforce some of the most vulnerable parts of my soul. Trust doesn’t come easily. I’m afraid, even when there’s no reason to be. I have a big, bold personality, and I don’t shy away from confrontation in many areas. But there are places in my life where I’ve gotten pretty good at rebranding my fears as wisdom.
A question like What would I do if I weren’t afraid? hurtles right past those defensive accoutrements and exposes them for what they are—things that keep me from following Jesus freely and wholeheartedly. It’s a question I’m trying to learn to ask whenever I run into my own internal resistance to a person, situation, or decision.
A version of this blog post originally appeared here.