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Many years ago, I was involved in a conversation about Jesus junk. Like most here in The Rabbit Room, I’m as offended by Jesus junk as I am moved by its counterpart, art that magnifies the glory of God with beauty and truth. The question we posed was, “Of all the Jesus junk on the market, which piece has the most redeeming value?” I chose the WWJD bracelet. Hey, if I had to pick one thing, the WWJD bracelet seemed as good as any.
At the time of the discussion, WWJD (What Would Jesus Do?) bracelets were a hot item at Christian bookstores. In fact, they were so popular that a shopper could probably find one at Sears or Walmart. For all I know, they may still be out there. They were mainstream, baby.
The WWJD bracelet shares some characteristics of great art (why are you rolling your eyes). It says something, but the message doesn’t assault us like a 2X4 over the head. At least not in the explicit way that lyrics on Christian formatted radio might. Further, the WWJD bracelet has layered meaning. Besides, “What Would Jesus Do,” some believers think of the initialism as, “Walk With Jesus Daily.” Still others think it means, “What Would Jesus Drive?”
Less known is that this phrase found popular acceptance with Christians over 100 years ago in the 1890s. The use of the phrase became popular then as the result of a book written by Charles Sheldon in 1896 called, “In His Steps.” Had my great grandfather been on his toes, he could have made a mint marketing WWJD bracelets to general stores.
Similar to other great art, we may be inspired to act or refrain from acting based on the inspiration found in the piece. We may never know how many F-bombs were averted as the result of the WWJD bracelet, but I’m willing to bet that it’s a lot. More than 39 for sure.
Finally, as a conversation piece for nonbelievers, they were second to none.
Though I grew up in church and became a believer after a 3rd grade youth group teacher used colored construction paper to illustrate the gospel (black for our sinful hearts, red for Jesus’ blood, white as snow for a redeemed heart, thanks Mrs. Raether)–the gospel didn’t become especially alive and vivid for me until a church camp experience when I was in junior high.
After that, I started using a saying with my believer friends that was in retrospect half-cheesy, but also–just like the WWJD bracelets–was kind of an accountability tool for us. When we returned home from camp, any time we wanted to call each other on the truth or to encourage each other to “do the right thing,” we started using the phrase Remember Something. It was like a spiritual secret code, similar to the WWJD bracelet. By invoking the Remember Something phrase, we meant to remind each other that we were called to walk a different path than what we walked before. Remember Something was a reminder of camp, and camp was a reminder of Christ.
Initially it was part of our inner circle but over time the phrase, Remember Something caught on with the rest of our school friends, believers and non-believers alike. Though our non-believing friends had no earthly idea of the origination of the phrase, they began using it–unknowingly reflecting a truth or reality to which they didn’t necessarily subscribe. To us, it was both hilarious and moving.
It would be cool to be able to say the phrase led to specific discussion opportunities with nonbelievers, but I don’t remember anything like that happening. We did have plenty of intimate discussions with our nonbelieving friends, but those conversations came later, mostly in high school. By the time we were sophomores, the Remember Something phrase largely dropped from our vocabulary. Junior high cool and high school cool are two different things, you understand.
Every two years, I have a long standing pact to get together for a mini-vacation with two of these boyhood buddies, Bill and Ron, both of whom attended the same high school and private Christian college with me. When we get together, we often slip back into our early days vernacular–including the Remember Something phrase. It’s mostly just to be silly, but deep down I think we understand and appreciate the bond that such a small thing helped create among us, as well as the curiosity and involvement it created among non-believing friends.
Thinking back (and maybe to our shame), we didn’t always use Remember Something in the most honorable of ways. Imagine, junior high guys behaving dishonorably? For example, I don’t know that teaching somebody a lesson about sharing their Peanut M&Ms was the best use of our Sunday schoolboy idiom. “Give me some of your M&M’s.” “No.” “Please.” “No.” “Remember Something.” “Oh, all right, here ya go.”
Jesus would no doubt have shared His Peanut M&Ms–of course–but as you might imagine, sometimes this phrase became a tool something like a holy sledge hammer for lending legitimacy to the pilfering of somebody’s candy. Or worse. It cloaked agenda (ouch), manipulation (ouch, ouch) and selfishness (triple ouch) within the confines of piosity.
What started as a pure expression and affirmation of God’s abiding love sometimes morphed into something not as pretty. The basis for Remember Something was something quite beautiful in an innocent sort of way. But when it became fodder for an agenda–even an honorable, spiritually correct agenda–if felt manipulative, heavy-handed, and controlling.
Have you ever experienced art like that? Remember Something.