You hear a lot of WWJD theology today, ie. “What would Jesus do?” unfortunately, this type of thinking usually relies on a person’s own picture of the kind of person Jesus was, eg. a welcoming person who never had a bad word to say about anyone.
But is this picture accurate? A case in point would be yesterday’s Gospel.
Matthew 5:13 “You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot. 14 You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. 15 No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house.”
I was rather surprised recently to find these verses listed in N.T. Wright’s “Jesus and the Victory of God” in a list of “judgement” texts from Jesus’ preaching. Essentially, he saw it as addressed to the nation of Israel, who had been called to be “salt of the earth” but had “lost its saltiness” and who had been made a “light to the nations” but had “hidden its light under a bushel”.
But I doubt if many of us heard sermons yesterday that took this passage as a word of judgement. Rather we hear it as a word addressed to Christians to be salt and light in the world. And yes, it is that, but if you miss the threat of judgement (“is thrown out and trampled under foot”) you perhaps miss a dimension of Jesus’ preaching in its original context. Tied up with this is, of course, that Jesus was in a way pointing to himself as the true and faithful Israelite who was indeed “the Light of the World”.
So when we ask “What would Jesus do?” (or say) we need to ask ourselves, what picture of Jesus am I working with? Is it accurate? (cf. a blast from the past here!)