Lenten Wednesday Service
WWGD What would Gibbs Do?
I don’t know how many of you are familiar with the show NCIS, but it is one of my favorites. It’s a fictional drama about Naval Criminal Investigation Services and one of the primary characters is Leroy Jethro Gibbs. Gibbs is sort of a cross between an Eagle Scout, a Marine, protective father, and sage wise in the ways of common sense. He is an understated hero with a life code that he teaches to others; a set of rules for life which include such things as:
Rule #12 Never date a coworker
Rule#15 Always work as a team
Rule #39 There’s no such thing as coincidence
And my personal favorite, Rule#9 Always carry a knife
The other day I saw a t-shirt and bumper sticker for sale that said: WWGD. What Would Gibbs Do? It might sound somewhat silly to consider, but perhaps not. (I even have my own set of Rules based on Gibb’s but a little different.) In a crisis situation, who wouldn’t want the advice of an Eagle Scout/Marine/protective parent/wise sage with common sense? Even if it is a fictional one.
The idea of using those letters for a bumper sticker is not original to the producers of NCIS. We’ve probably all seen the WWJD stickers, t-shirts, bracelets and other paraphernalia. What Would Jesus Do? This, too, is not a bad idea. Who wouldn’t want the advice of Jesus during their everyday life? We could even say that Jesus has his own set of Jesus Rules, too.
Rule #1 Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind and strength
Rule #2 Love your neighbor as yourself
The idea for asking the question ‘What Would Jesus Do’ came from a book by Charles Sheldon titled In His Steps: What Would Jesus Do? It was published in 1896 as a fiction novel created by Reverend Sheldon as a way for his congregation and others to think about the impact their faith should have on their everyday lives and how they treat one another. This is actually not a bad idea. Somewhat like Jesus’ Rules.
It’s great! We can use that just like the idea of WWGD and shape our lives around what our hero would do. What we believe he would do. Would do if he were here. Would do if he were real.
The one problem with the What Would’s is that at some point the hero we seek to emulate becomes distant, watching from the sidelines of our lives cheering us on. We leave the Eagle Scout/ Marine/ protective parent/ wise sage behind as we go out into the world, occasionally take out their memory or call them up when we have a problem but largely live apart from them. Sometimes, they can even become What Do I Think Jesus Would Do? What would I do if I were Jesus?
This is really tricky and can lead us away from what we really mean to do. The truth is that what Jesus DID was GO out in to the world to the hard and difficult places in life and be with the people who suffered terribly or hated him or did not understand him, SUFFERED terribly himself by those who betrayed him, tortured him and killed him, enduring it for the sake of all of us, DIED a real and painful death, and then ROSE from that death on the third day so that even those who did not understand him and did not like him and betrayed him and tortured and killed him could be saved.
Hands up for all those who want to do that!?!? We can be fairly certain that the question, “what would I do if I were Jesus” would not end up with Going Suffering Dying and Rising.
The truth is the What Would’s are just fine for WWGD. The difference is that Gibbs is a fictional character. He is not real and apart from the really great TV show, Leroy Jethro Gibbs is not now nor will he ever be active in the world. The ideas and the moral code are excellent examples for life, but Gibbs is not, himself, alive.
But Jesus is. It is not What Would Jesus Do or What Do I Think Jesus Would Do or even What Would I Do If I Were Jesus but What IS Jesus DOING? Right now and right here. What is Jesus doing inside us, in the world, through our hands and feet? Jesus is not a fictional character. Jesus is real, alive and at large in the world.
Our theme for Wednesdays in Lent this year is seeing God in unexpected places and this idea of Jesus being active now is often an unexpected surprise to us. We expect God to be up in heaven looking down on us. Some may think he’s looking down in judgment waiting for us to make a mistake or looking down as a benevolent parent. Some may think that God is waiting in the scriptures for us, just sitting there in the words on the pages waiting with wise sage advice on our everyday lives as though he were the author of some sort of cosmic Life’s Little Instruction book. But the truth is that God is so much more than a distant observer of our lives or giver of meaningful suggestions. God is active in our lives right now, active in our actions, actively bringing about the kingdom of God.
So what is Jesus doing right now with you? How is Jesus working in you to expand and grow your faith? How is Jesus calling us to follow him as he goes to the places of suffering, as he lives in us as we die to our own wants, how is Jesus actively raising us up every single day?
Having heroes, be they fiction or not, who show us how to have a code for an honorable life is a good thing. Let us also remember we have a Living God who is active now. Let us ask ourselves: What is Jesus doing right now and how can I be a part of it?