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Imagine stumbling across a phrase that has woven its way into the fabric of modern Christianity, sparking contemplation and inspiring actions globally. That’s precisely what the “What Would Jesus Do” movement has accomplished since its inception. Its roots trace back further than you might think, originating from a simple yet profound question that has challenged individuals to align their choices with their faith. This exploration takes you on a journey to uncover the origins of this influential movement, a concept that emerged from historical depths to become a guiding light for countless believers. With insights from, the original website dedicated to this movement, you’ll discover when and how “What would Jesus do” started resonating within hearts and minds, inspiring a legacy of thought and action in Christian communities around the world.

Origins of the What Would Jesus Do Movement

Concept Origin of ‘What Would Jesus Do’

The conceptual basis of the question

The idea behind “What Would Jesus Do?” hinges on self-reflection in the face of moral and ethical dilemmas, asking oneself how Jesus, as a figure of unconditional love, kindness, and moral integrity, would act or respond in a similar situation. It’s like putting on a pair of glasses that filter every decision through the teachings and actions of Jesus Christ, focusing on the realms of compassion, empathy, and love.

The introduction of Jesus’s ethical teachings in Christianity

When you dig into Christianity, you’ll find Jesus’ ethical teachings peppered throughout the New Testament. His messages, parables, and life actions serve as a blueprint for Christian ethics, emphasizing love, charity, forgiveness, and grace. For Christians, his life is not just a series of events but a guiding light for behavior and decision-making.

The philosophy of personal reflection in religious teachings

The core of many religious teachings is the idea of personal reflection, where you’re encouraged to ponder your actions and thoughts to align with spiritual values. Christianity, in particular, promotes this introspection, urging believers to constantly question how their lives mirror the teachings of Jesus. It’s about striving for a personal transformation that echoes divine principles.

First Appearance in Literature

Introduction of the phrase in Charles Sheldon’s 1896’s novel ´In His Steps´

The phrase “What Would Jesus Do?” made its first significant appearance in literature in Charles Sheldon’s novel, “In His Steps,” published in 1896. The story follows various characters who, facing life’s challenges, ask themselves this very question, seeking guidance in Jesus’s teachings as they navigate their decisions.

Significance of the saying in the novel

In Sheldon’s narrative, the question is not just a thematic tool but a transformative one, significantly impacting the characters’ lives. It serves as a moral compass, guiding them towards actions that reflect Christian values, fundamentally changing their lives and the lives of those around them.

Public reception and impact of Sheldon’s book

The book struck a chord with the public, quickly becoming a bestseller. It has since sold millions of copies and been translated into multiple languages. Its simple yet profound question has left a lasting impression on Christian thought and practice, inspiring countless people to reflect on their actions through the lens of Jesus’s teachings.

Early Usage of the Phrase

Early adopters and promoters of the phrase

After the publication of “In His Steps,” pastors and church leaders became early adopters of the phrase, using it in sermons and as a central theme in Sunday school teachings. They found it to be a powerful way to encapsulate the essence of Christian ethical behavior.

Presence of the saying in church sermons and teachings

The phrase began to feature prominently in church sermons across the United States and abroad, encouraging congregations to apply the teachings of Jesus in everyday life. It became a cornerstone for discussions on Christian morals and ethics.

Reflection in early 20th century Christian texts

Following its surge in popularity, the phrase started to appear in Christian literature outside of Sheldon’s novel, from devotionals to theological treatises. Authors and theologians pondered and expanded upon the question, exploring its implications for Christian living.

Transformation into a Movement

Adoption of the phrase as a personal mantra

What started as a literary motif evolved into a personal mantra for many believers, who began wearing bracelets and carrying items inscribed with the initials “WWJD” as a constant reminder to live according to Jesus’s teachings.

Formation of groups around the ‘What Would Jesus Do’ phrase

Groups formed around the concept, gathering believers who shared the commitment to ask themselves “What Would Jesus Do?” before making decisions. These groups, which sprang up in various forms, from study circles to online forums, created communities focused on living out Christian ethics.

Movement growth and reach across different sections of society

The movement saw significant growth, reaching beyond individual congregations to impact wider segments of society. It resonated with people from all walks of life, offering a simple but profound method to assess and guide moral and ethical decisions.

Origins of the What Would Jesus Do Movement

Popularization in the Late 20th Century

Role of the media in popularizing the phrase

Media played a crucial role in bringing “What Would Jesus Do?” into mainstream consciousness. News stories, interviews, and mentions in popular TV shows and movies helped spread the phrase, making it a well-known cultural reference point.

Influence of pop culture and public figures in the propagation

Pop culture and public figures also contributed to the phrase’s popularity, with celebrities and influencers donning WWJD bracelets and paraphernalia. This visibility helped cement the phrase’s place in contemporary culture.

Impact on contemporary Christian culture

In contemporary Christian culture, “What Would Jesus Do?” has become a foundational question, influencing everything from personal behavior and church teachings to Christian entertainment and media. It’s a phrase that encapsulates a way of life, inspiring millions to embody Christ-like compassion and integrity.

Use in Political Discourse

Application of ‘What Would Jesus Do’ in political conversations

The phrase has found its way into political discourse, used by politicians and activists to invoke Christian principles in debates on social justice, poverty, healthcare, and other issues. It serves as a moral barometer, challenging leaders and constituents alike to consider the ethical dimensions of policies and actions.

Significance of the phrase in influencing political decisions

While its use in politics can be contentious, “What Would Jesus Do?” has undeniably influenced political discussions and decisions. It prompts a return to fundamental ethical considerations, asking whether policies align with core Christian values of love, compassion, and justice.

Critiques of the use of the phrase in politics

However, the phrase’s use in political contexts is not without criticism. Some argue it simplifies complex issues or is used selectively to support specific agendas. Despite these critiques, its presence in political conversations underscores the enduring impact of religious ethics on public life.

Origins of the What Would Jesus Do Movement

Commercialization and Criticism

Creation of merchandise and commercial products around the phrase

The commercial aspect of “What Would Jesus Do?” has proliferated, with a wide range of products from bracelets and T-shirts to bumper stickers and books. This merchandise serves as both a personal reminder and a public expression of faith.

Consumer response to WWJD products

Consumer response to WWJD products has been overwhelmingly positive, with millions embracing the opportunity to wear their faith literally on their sleeves. For many, these items are a means of starting conversations about faith and guiding principles in life.

Critiques on the commercialization of ‘What Would Jesus Do’

Criticism arises with concerns that commercialization dilutes the profound spiritual and ethical message behind “What Would Jesus Do?” Skeptics argue that turning a call to introspection and moral action into a commodity risks missing the deeper teaching it represents.

Cultural Significance Today

Current understanding and interpretation of ‘What Would Jesus Do’

Today, “What Would Jesus Do?” continues to evoke reflection and debate about living a life aligned with Christian ethics. The phrase challenges individuals to consider how they navigate the complexities of modern life while staying true to their faith.

Impact on modern Christian communities

In modern Christian communities, the phrase remains a central element of faith practice, influencing everything from teaching and worship to community outreach and social activism. It encapsulates a commitment to live out one’s faith in every aspect of life.

Influence on non-religious spheres of society

Even beyond religious communities, “What Would Jesus Do?” has left its mark, encouraging people of various beliefs to consider the value of compassion, integrity, and altruism in their actions. It’s a prompt for ethical reflection that transcends religious boundaries.

Origins of the What Would Jesus Do Movement

Variations and Parodies of ‘What Would Jesus Do’

Different interpretations and adaptations of the phrase

The phrase has inspired numerous variations and adaptations, each adding a different perspective or engaging with contemporary issues. These adaptations reflect the phrase’s flexibility and enduring relevance.

Presence in popular culture and media

In popular culture and media, variations and parodies of “What Would Jesus Do?” feature in everything from comedy sketches to dramatic narratives, sometimes to critique or satirize, other times to affirm or explore its meanings. These representations contribute to the ongoing conversation about the phrase’s significance.

Effect of variations and parodies on the original phrase

While variations and parodies can dilute or deflect from the original intention, they also serve to keep the conversation around “What Would Jesus Do?” alive and relevant. Engaging with these interpretations encourages ongoing reflection on the core message and its application in contemporary life.

Role of the Internet in Popularizing ‘What Would Jesus Do’

Influence of social media and digital platforms on the WWJD movement

The internet and social media have amplified the reach of the “What Would Jesus Do?” movement, facilitating the spread of its message across the globe. Online platforms offer spaces for discussion, sharing testimonials, and connecting with like-minded individuals, thus breathing new life into the phrase for the digital age.

Online communities and discussions around ‘What Would Jesus Do’

Online communities dedicated to discussing and living out the “What Would Jesus Do?” mantra have emerged, creating vibrant forums for exchange and support. These digital spaces allow for the sharing of resources, stories, and encouragement, thus fostering a sense of global community.

Role of in perpetuating the phrase

Websites like play a crucial role in perpetuating the phrase, serving as hubs for those curious about or committed to the philosophy behind “What Would Jesus Do?” These platforms provide educational resources, merchandise, and avenues for engagement, ensuring the phrase’s continued relevance and impact in the digital era.