“This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Woe to you shepherds of Israel who only take care of yourselves! Should not shepherds take care of the flock? You eat the curds, clothe yourselves with the wool and slaughter the choice animals, but you do not take care of the flock. You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured. You have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost. You have ruled them harshly and brutally.” - Ezekiel 34:2-4
Ezekiel 34 is calling out the leaders of Israel for not doing what they should have been doing for their people. In a broader sense, it is calling all of us out for not doing what we should do, or being what we should be. It brings to mind a seemingly common-sense Christian motto which found a resurgence, back in the 1990s (it was first popular in the U.S. in the late 1800s, surprisingly, and can actually be linked back the 1400s, when Thomas à Kempis wrote, The Imitation of Christ.) “What Would Jesus Do?,” or WWJD, showed up on bracelets and t-shirts, suggesting that all we need for moral choices and behavior is to use what Jesus did as our guide.
There were at least two problems with this. First, since we are neither divine nor the Son of God, Jesus had a vast range of powers, and the ability to do what no other human can. Miracles are a good example. As historian/religious writer Garry Wills says in, What Jesus Meant, much of what Jesus did was “meant to show that he is not just like us, that he has higher rights and powers.” H. Richard Niebuhr says that we can only “become somewhat like Jesus.” His situation, experiences, challenges, and actions are so different from our affluent, modern lives that the practicality of using Jesus as a guide through our daily lives is limited, without making all kinds of assumptions about how he would fit into our world, or what he would make of it.
Second, because of problem #1, WWJD is asking the wrong question. Perhaps it would be better for us to ask, What Does Jesus Call Us To Do? We don’t need assumptions for that one, because throughout the Bible, it is certainly made clear. Look above at Ezekiel 34:2-4, for starters. What the “shepherds of Israel” had not done for their people gives a pretty strong hint at what we should do, and it sounds much like what Jesus says in Matthew 25:42-43: “For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.” You get the idea.
It all boils down to this, from Matthew 22:37-40: We are to love God, and we are to love our neighbors as ourselves. Simple instructions, but a radical call to selflessly reach out to others, including “the least of these” - the poor, the hungry, the homeless, the refugee, the criminal, the enemy, the weak, sick, bereaved, those who are not like you, those who disagree with you, those who make you feel uncomfortable, and on and on.
Which brings us to the real question: Are you willing to do what Jesus calls us to do?