There was a time not too long ago when there were bracelets, t-shirts and various marketed products with the letters “WWJD?” I don’t see them as much now, but I am sure you can still find them. WWJD stands for “What would Jesus do?” This campaign was a way to remind all of us that in any given situation it is important to stop and think about what Jesus might do if He were in the same circumstances. This is something that could be practical and,at the very least, to build a discipline of pause and hesitation before one simply reacts, or gives into temptation. I think that, while this is helpful, it doesn’t really go far enough or puts the focus on mere externals or imitation and doesn’t quite get to the heart of the matter. This is not an attempt to totally discredit this, but I think as Orthodox Christians, we take this much more seriously.
From an Orthodox Christian perspective, salvation is the full renewal of mankind into the image and likeness of God. Because of Christ’s incarnation, passion, resurrection and glorification we have the possibility of partaking of the divine nature. We become “by grace all that God is by nature” to quote the fathers. This means that we very literally die to the old man and “put on Christ” in our baptism. We actualize this by our continual daily martyrdom where we take up our cross and follow Christ. This means that we do not only imitate Christ, but we are called to be transformed into His image and likeness. It is not something merely external, but a transformation and recreation of the old Adam into a new and glorious “christified” humanity. We are meant to be participants in Christ. We are transformed from within and are past the point of simply asking “what would Jesus do?” but more “what would Jesus be?” (WWJB?) or more correctly “who is He?” This echoes Christ’s own question he asked the disciples in the Gospels, “who do you say that I am?” The focus, you see, is more about being rather than doing. It is here that we can echo St. Paul and say that, as Christians, the more that we become like Christ in our very being and “become like Him in His death” the more that we participate and “attain the resurrection from the dead.” He then goes on to say, “Not that I have already attained all this or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus has taken hold of me.”
Is this not the whole basis for our approach to the mysteries, or sacraments of the Church? Life in the Church has been called “life in Christ.” It is in the Church that we fully participate in the life of Christ. Fr. John Meyendorff reminds us that “Christ’s humanity, (by virtue of the incarnation), is penetrated with divine ‘energy.’ It is, therefore, a deified humanity, which, however, does not in any way lose its human characteristics. Quite the contrary. These characteristics become even more real and authentic by contact with the divine model according to which they were created. In this deified humanity of Christ’s, man is called to participate, and to share in its deification. This is the meaning of sacramental life and the basis of Christian spirituality. The Christian is called not to an ‘imitation’ of Jesus – a purely extrinsic and moral act – but, as Nicholas Cabasilas puts it, to ‘life in Christ’ through baptism, chrismation, and the Eucharist.” All of our worship – hymns, icons, incense, candles, kissing, bowing, etc – become a real participation in this life in Christ. The sacraments of the Church provide an immediate participation in Christ Himself through partaking of His most precious Body and Blood. We die and rise with Him in our baptism. We receive the Holy Spirit at our chrismation. We are healed in body and soul through the anointing of oil. We are blessed through drinking Holy Water. These are all a means of participation in life in the Kingdom of God made present within the Body of Christ – the Church. It is through this participation that we become transformed and changed and can then go out into this world and be a light in the darkness and bring Christ to every place and situation that we find ourselves in. This is why it is so vital to our spiritual life to participate in the sacramental life of the Church. When we commemorate the Great Feasts of the Church year we enter into the reality of the events and become participants in them. St. Leo the Great said, “Our task now is not to earn this new life but to live it, to enter into the riches of Christ’s redemptive work and to allow the paschal mystery of his death and resurrection to enter into our daily lives; for when the Lord Jesus took His seat at the right hand of the Father, He poured out His Spirit on His Church, the Spirit whose mission it is to make available to all believers the salvation Christ has won for us.” So let us ask ourselves not “what would Jesus do?” but “who is He and how can I participate in Him.” It is here that we realize that we have been given so much within the life of the Church as consolation and joy. We are given the wonderful and joyous opportunity to share in Christ’s life through participation in the Holy Mysteries of the Church. “WWJB?”