I’ve never said “What Would Jesus Do” in anything but jest. While I believe Christians should model their lives after Jesus, it’s always seemed shallow to have a slogan as a litmus test.
However, the concept is not lost on me. And with Easter weekend upon us and religious liberty issues raging, I can’t think of a better time to ask “WWJD.”
Here are three lessons we can learn from the greatest communicator of all and how it translates to today. (Sorry Ronald Reagan fans, but Jesus has him beat.)
Don’t Be an Echo Chamber
Jesus didn’t speak to only one audience, unless you define “everyone” as one audience. He spoke to men and women, young and old, rich and poor, believers and unbelievers. He was an equal opportunist, and that was rarely popular. Even his disciples rebuked Him for speaking to children.
But Jesus was not deterred by the unpopular, and thus he often spoke to people who were skeptical. The first time we hear from Jesus is when he engages religious leaders in the Temple—at the age of twelve. No doubt many people raised their eyebrows, but Jesus used it as an opportunity to “be about his Father’s business.”
So what can we learn from this? Even when we may have a less-than-receptive audience, it doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t speak up. Jesus spoke to people who were skeptical. And if we want to have an impact, we should do the same. Yes, that may mean agreeing to an interview on a less-than-friendly network.
Do Tell Stories
Speaking to an audience that doesn’t agree with you isn’t enough. What you say matters. A famous Theodore Roosevelt quote is, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” And a great way to show you care is through storytelling.
Jesus’ intellect could have destroyed anyone then and now, but he often chose to communicate through stories or, as the Bible calls them, parables. For those of us who grew up in church, we can easily recall some of our favorites, whether the Good Samaritan or the Prodigal Son (and my recollections are vivid due to the accompanying flannelgraph).
But why are stories so powerful? Well, a story reaches the heart as it applies the truth being spoken. We can talk all day about the importance of religious liberty in this country, but it doesn’t become real until we talk about a seventy-year-old grandmother who may lose her business because she chooses to operate it through the lens of her faith.
So we should incorporate stories when talking to the media. It makes the issue about people instead of policy—and that’s powerful.
Keep Your Cool
Morton Blackwell, the president of the Leadership Institute, has a list of dos and don’ts in what he calls his “Laws of Public Policy.” One of my favorites is “Don’t get mad, except on purpose.” Jesus did exhibit righteous anger in the Bible, but it was always purposeful. The most memorable example is when he overturned the moneychanger’s table in the Temple.
But the Bible isn’t filled with examples of Jesus preaching fire and brimstone. Instead, a more common description is “humble servant,” and we’d greatly benefit from applying this discipline in our own lives.
Interviews are often thought of as a battle of wits between guest and host. While a healthy debate with solid talking points is necessary, remember that you aren’t trying to convince the host. Rather, you are trying to convince that undecided person watching on the other side of the screen. While there may be a time to get angry, it will be rare. Instead, remember that a humble but confident demeanor wins more people to your side.
As religious liberty issues continue to unfold, we’d be wise to communicate like Jesus. It’s about speaking the truth in a way that people can understand and connect with, and He is the ultimate example of how to do that well. So, perhaps we should ask ourselves “WWJDOMSNBC” (What Would Jesus Do on MSNBC)—even though, OK, it doesn’t fit on a bracelet.
This article has been modified.