The words below came from the book “What Would Jesus Do?” by Charles M. Sheldon, pages 11-14. The book came out in 1979. It is a work of fiction but it ask us ‘What does following Jesus mean?’ and ‘What would Jesus do?’ As a Christian I thought it was time for me to be asking myself these questions. Perhaps others should be asking these questions to themselves too.
No one in the house made any motion to stop the stranger or in any way interrupt him. Perhaps the first shock of his sudden appearance deepened into genuine perplexity concerning what was best to do. However that may be, he went on as if he had no thought of interruption and no thought of the unusual element which he had introduced in the decorum of the First Church service. And all the while he was speaking, the minister leaned over the pulpit., his face growing more white and sad every moment. But he made no movement to stop him, and the people sat smitten into breathless silence. One other face, that of Rachel Winslow from the choir, stared white and intent down at the shabby figure with the faded hat. Her face was striking at anytime. Under the pressure of the present unheard-of incident it was as personally distinct as if it had be frame in fire.
“I’m not an ordinary tramp, though I don’t know of any teaching of Jesus that makes one kind of a tramp less worth saving than another. Do you?” He put the question as naturally as if the whole congregation had been a small Bible class. he paused just a moment and coughed painfully. Then he went on.
“I lost my job ten months ago. I am a printer by trade. The new linotype machines are beautiful specimens of invention, but I know six men who have killed themselves inside of the year just on account of those machines. . Of course I don’t blame the newspapers for getting the machines. Meanwhile, what can a man do? I know I never tramped all over the country trying to find something. There are a good many other like me. I’m not complaining, am I? Just stating facts. But I was wondering as I sat there under the gallery, if what call following Jesus is the same thing as He taught. What did He mean when He said: ‘Follow me!’ the minister said.” here the man turned about and looked up at the pulpit. “that it is necessary for the disciple of Jesus to follow His steps, and he said the steps are ‘obedience, faith, love and imitation.’ But I did not hear him tell you just what he meant that to mean, especially the last step. What do you Christians mean by following the steps of Jesus?”
“I‘ve tramped through this city for three days trying to find a job; and in all that time I’ve not had word of sympathy or comfort except from your minister here, who said he was sorry for me and hoped I would find a job somewhere. I suppose it is because you get so imposed on by the professional tramp that you have lost your interest in any other sort. I’m not blaming anybody, am I? Just stating facts. Of course, I understand you can’t all go out of your way to hunt up jobs for other people like me. I’m not asking you too; but what I feel puzzled about is, what is meant by following Jesus? What do you mean when you sing’’ ‘I’ll go with Him, with Him, all the way?’ Do you mean that you are suffering and denying yourselves and trying to save lost, suffering humanity just as I understand Jesus did? What do you men by it> I see the ragged edge of things a good deal. I understand there are more than five hundred men in this city in my case. Most of them have families. My wife died four months ago. I’m glad she is out of trouble. My little girl is staying with a printer’s family until I find a job. Somehow I get puzzled when I see so many Christians living in luxury and singing ‘Jesus, I my cross have taken, all to leave and follow thee,’ and remember how my died in a tenement in New York City, grasping for air and asking God to take the little girl too. Of course I don’t expect you people can prevent every one from dying of starvation, lack of proper nourishment and tenement air, but what does following Jesus mean? I understand that Christian People own a good many of the tenements. A member of the church was the owner of the one where my wife died, and I have wondered if following Jesus all the way was true in his case. I heard some people singing a church prayer meeting the other night. ‘All for Jesus, all for Jesus. All my being’s ransomed powers. All my thoughts, and all my doings. All my days, and all my hours.’ and I kept wondering as I sat on the steps outside just what they meant by it. It seems to me there’s an awful lot of trouble in the world that some how wouldn’t exist if all the people who singing such songs wet and lived them out. I suppose I don’t understand. But what would Jesus do? Is that what you mean by following His steps? It seems to sometimes as if the people in the big churches had good clothes and nice houses to live in and money to spend for luxuries, and could go summer vacations and all that. While the people outside the churches, thousands of them. I mean, die in tenements, and walk the streets for jobs and never have a piano or a picture in the house, and grow p in misery and drunkenness and sin.”
The man suddenly gave a queer lurch over in the direction of communion table and laid one grimy hand on it. His hat fell upon the carpet at his feet. Astir went through the congregation. Dr. West half rose from his pew, but as yet the silence was unbroken by any voice or movement worth mentioning in the audience. The man passed his other hand across his eyes,and then, without any warning, fell heavily forward on his face full length up the aisle.
Henry Maxwell spoke: “We will consider the service closed.”
Do you know the answer to the tramps question ‘What does following Jesus mean?’ Let me apply it with some questions.
1) You see a tramp on the street corner with a sign which says ‘will work for food.’ would following Jesus mean in this case.
A) Stopping and giving the tramp money to get something to eat.
B) Stopping and invite the tramp in your car to take him home with you to work then give him some food.
C) Ignore the tramp and move on.
2) Let us say you’re a senator in the US senate who is a Christian. There is someone pressuring you to vote for a bill that isn’t good for the American people. Would following Jesus mean in this case?
A) Agree with the someone to vote for the bill then vote for it.
B) Tell the someone you won’t vote the bill because it will cause hurt to the American People and not vote for it.
C) Tell the someone you won’t vote the bill because it will cause hurt to the American People. You go on TV and warn the American people about the bill.
3) You are a cop. You know a fellow officer is taking bribes from a corrupt person to get away with a crime. Would following Jesus mean in this case?
A) Don’t say a word to IA about the fellow officer and ignore the problem.
B) You go to the IA and tell them what you know about the fellow officer.
C) You tell your fellow officer what you know about the corrupt and not go to