A novel by Charles Monroe Sheldon
, first published in 1896. It catalogues a year in the life of one Rev. Maxwell
and his paritioners
in the fictional town of Raymond
A down-on-his luck man comes to the town, asks for help over some days, finally stumbles into the church again requesting aid, and collapses in front of a stunned congregation. He dies shortly thereafter, in the minister's home.
Maxwell realizes neither he nor his congregation truly behaved in a christlike, charitable way towards this man until it was truly too late to matter. He vows to look at his own life closely, and made a promise to himself to ask himself, in every matter, what would jesus do? for the course of a year. He tells the congregation of his plan, and asks if anyone wishes to join him in his pledge. The book follows his pledge, and the pledges of several others who also took the vow throughout their year.
Sometimes surprising, sometimes touching, sometimes softly funny, sometimes awe-inspiring, it's a wonderful book. Although it's a hundred years old, it still reads like a modern novel, the characters timeless and the language accessable. It feels like it could have been written yesterday, or many many years before it was. Its message actually is timeless, and could be any people, in any town, anywhere. I'd recommend this book to anyone, christian or not, as both a pleasurable read and a touching tribute to what humans are sometimes possible of achieving. This book was one of two things that kept me Christian for years after i'd lost my faith in the institution of the church and all other aspects of the religion. It was the glowing tribute of faith and hope and inspiration that caught my mind for the longest time. It's a book i still reread from time to time.
the entire text can be found online at http://www.ssnet.org/bsc/ihs/ihs.html and http://www.deepworship.com/books/0041/. It's well over a hundred years old, so is considered public domain material.
It was also this novel that inspired the WWJD? fad that's swept the nation a couple times in the past five years or so. WWJD? keychains, backpacks, jewelry, bumper stickers, shirts, you name it it's out there. And you name another way the acronym can be taken and that's been done too. The book had a slow, small following for years and years, but somewhere in the mid 90's many churches took the novel up for sunday school classes and bible studies, and it took off like nothing else. It still is a useful teaching tool in some of its uses.
But more than that it's become just another trend like Calvin Klein and Pokemon. Young preteens parade around wearing bundles
of wwjd? jewelry, long before they've made a serious religious choice for their own lives because it's "cool". I've sat and asked people why they wear it. I honeslty get the answer "beause it's cool and everyone's got them!" more often than i get "because it is a personal reminder to me to live my life in a christlike manner." Far more. I've run into people i KNOW are jews and agnostics touting the stuff too, to fit in better with their peers. In general, the more people make their WWJD? merchandise known, the less meaning it has to them. Yes, this is a generalization, but it's too sadly true in this case. People i've met who live a truly good, truly Christlike life tend to do it in private, quietly. And these folks don't need a few gaudy bangles to remind them to live this way--they do it out of an internal knowing of what's right to them.