Richard Beck posted one of his characteristically provocative posts recently, this one with a title informing readers that “you don’t have time for ‘What Would Jesus Do?'” Here is part of that post:
Most of us, I’m guessing, think that becoming more Christ-like in our lives is a process of making good choices. Life presents us with a series of moral decisions and we need to ask ourselves at each of these crossroads “What would Jesus do?”
But…life isn’t really like that. Those “choices” come at us so fast that we don’t really even notice we’re making them. Mostly because our decision-making is being done automatically and emotionally…
We tend to think being like Jesus is controlled by the fast, rational, and conscious part of the mind, the part that asks “What would Jesus do?”
But in reality, it’s the fast, emotional, and automatic part of our minds that’s really controlling the show. As I’ve written about before, the battle to be like Jesus is won or lost in milliseconds.
In short, learning to love isn’t about standing at an ethical crossroads and making good, Christ-like decisions, rolling the question “What would Jesus do?” over in our minds. Life and our brains are moving way too fast for that.
Learning to love is, rather, about forming yourself into a person where love becomes natural and automatic, like a habit of breathing.
Confucius emphasized something similar in Analects 2.4, a particularly famous passage:
At 30, I took my stand; At 40, I no longer had doubts; At 50, I knew the will of the heavens; At 60, my ear was attuned; At 70, I follow all the desires of my heart without breaking any rule.
The idea is that morality became first a matter of deep investigation and reflection, but ultimately a matter of determined habit-formation, so that the instinctive reaction becomes that which one would judge moral if one had the time to think and reflect on it, but which so often in a moment of intense crisis we do not.
Finally, I came across the image below when searching for a picture that would serve as a suitable accompaniment for this post, and it amused me enough that I thought I should share it with you. But jokes aside, if it is true, isn’t it precisely because Jesus had turned his teaching into instincts that he followed without having to stop and look at a bracelet around his wrist?