In the 1990s, if you’re old enough, you may remember the popularity of the slogan “WWJD” – “What Would Jesus Do.” It was on wristbands, bumper stickers, caps, T-shirts and more.
But beyond the slogan, “What Would Jesus Do” became a standard of behavior for many Christians, giving a handy reminder to pause and to not act instinctively, but to instead do as Jesus did. It’s a slogan that actually has a rich and lengthy history behind it, going back centuries to the spiritual classic, “The Imitation of Christ,” by the Catholic writer Thomas a Kempis.
Today, on the surface of the Gospel, we find Jesus troubled by the needs of the crowds, and in response empowering his 12 disciples and making them apostles, giving them authority to do things in service of others that they were not able to do previously.
But at another level, we learn not just what Jesus does here, but how Jesus does what he does. We have an example of what we call today the “See-Judge-Act” pastoral method. Jesus sees, observes, notices the situation of the crowd; they are troubled and abandoned. No doubt he also observes his own reaction of being moved with pity. And then, even though it’s not stated in the text, he undoubtedly undertakes some time to discerning, considering, reflecting, judging. Then he acts, empowering those apostles to improve the situation of those being served. See-Judge-Act.
Today the See-Judge-Act method is more-or-less an official methodology for church institutions engaged in the work of charity and social justice. The principles of Catholic Social Doctrine are brought into play in the middle stage – Judge – when groups try to help others in need.
In our ill-tempered and unfiltered polarized world, too often Jesus is no longer part of our response process of what we do nor how we do it. WWJD, See-Judge-Act. These slogans may not be popular anymore, but the principles behind them are timeless. So whether you’re trying to live your individual discipleship with Christ or you’re trying to change the world — and hopefully you’re trying to do both — it helps to have these guiding and profound slogans to remind us of what Jesus did and how he did it.