Today’s post is written by guest blogger Kim Shippey: How well I remember the 1990s when friends who were on the brink of Christian commitment latched on to the slogan “What Would Jesus Do?” They stuck the letters WWJD on bracelets, shirts, caps, notebooks, and bumper stickers.
Even before they understood Jesus’ contribution to religious history and the role his teachings might play in their lives, those friends felt good when they responded to the call to try to be Christlike (as far as they understood the term), and to engage daily situations by asking how they thought Jesus might have handled them.
More recently, I came across a related slogan offered by a Nigerian-American writer, Enuma Okoro, who suggested that a more fitting alternative might be IYLM, “If You Love Me.” It’s the phrase that opens St. John’s Gospel, and continues, “you will keep my commandments” (New Revised Standard Version).
Most significantly, it’s echoed several chapters later in the heart-searing question the resurrected Jesus posed to Simon Peter, “Do you love me?” (If so, “feed my sheep”) (John 21:17).
Okoro suggests that IYLM may not roll off the tongue the same way WWJD does. But it could persuade us to stop and ask what’s really at stake with our next move in whatever situation we find ourselves. He recommends that we feed Jesus’ sheep by treating others with the “kind of love that expects and calls to be loved in return but that still, despite the conditions, will love anyway” (The Christian Century, April 19, 2017).
And I believe Okoro is right, especially in light of a new book I’ve just read, The True Jesus: Uncovering the Divinity of Christ in the Gospels (Regnery Publishing, 2017).
Author David Limbaugh, a lawyer and nationally syndicated columnist, offers a primer (including more than 90 pages of notes) for new Bible readers and a fresh guide to the Gospels for long-time believers.
Limbaugh combines the Gospel stories (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) into a unified account (though not always, he humbly admits, in perfect harmony) and guides readers through the evangelists’ testimonies of the life of Christ Jesus.
As readers, we soon learn that the Bible is not simply a rulebook on ethical conduct. “It certainly teaches how we should live and prioritize our lives,” explains Limbaugh, “but it does so in various narrative and historical contexts.”
He sets out these contexts under headings borrowed from Bible scholar Leland Ryken:
Theological writing, which conveys propositional truths;
Historical writing, which conveys information, though the writers often willingly share their moral interpretations of the events; and,
Literary writing, including prophetic and apocalyptic writing, which recreates the scenes or events in enough detail that we can experience them imaginatively.
In his book, Limbaugh appears to never have been daunted by the magnitude of his task or the inevitably close scrutiny it must have prompted among Bible scholars worldwide. He never loses sight of his concern to share his vision of the beneficial role the “true Jesus” can play in the lives of people everywhere.
Limbaugh reminds us that the 39 books of the Old Testament cover a far longer time period than the 27 books of the New Testament, but adds that the New Testament is especially meaningful, because it records God’s fulfillment of His promise of renewal through a Messiah and explains the significance of that promise.
“Divinely inspired,” says Limbaugh, “the New Testament writers confidently instructed the recipients of their missives to share them with other believers.”
I think we can fairly say that one of those recipients was Mary Baker Eddy, whose deep love of the Bible and whose insights into and inspired explanations of Jesus’ teachings are set out in the textbook of Christian Science, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures.
She wrote: “The divine nature was best expressed in Christ Jesus, who threw upon mortals the truer reflection of God and lifted their lives higher than their poor thought-models would allow,—thoughts which presented man as fallen, sick, sinning, and dying.”
Eddy continued: “The Christlike understanding of scientific being and divine healing includes a perfect Principle and idea,—perfect God and perfect man,—as the basis of thought and demonstration (Science and Health, p. 259).
Perfect is a word Limbaugh doesn’t hesitate to use, as, for example, when he speaks of Jesus as “the perfect answer for every question raised in the Old Testament,” and the Bible itself as “a miraculous work of unity because it is God’s revelation of His perfectly unified salvation plan for [those] He created in His image.”
No acronyms are needed to remind us of such enduring, saving truths—with not a moment’s doubt that loving in Jesus’ way reveals plentiful evidence in our own lives that we are keeping his commandments and feeding his sheep—with joy!