One of the best-selling books of all time was published in 1896 coming from the pen of Charles Monroe Sheldon. It carries the title, In His Steps. The title of the book comes from 1 Peter 2:21 where Peter is writing to encourage Christians that were hurting because of difficult situations. He reminded them that Jesus also suffered and wrote, “For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that we should follow His steps.”
In a nutshell, Sheldon’s book is based on an incident that caused a preacher to challenge his congregation for one full year to ask themselves, before they made any decision, “What would Jesus do?” In fact, the complete title of the book is, In His Steps: What Would Jesus Do? So, the WWJD bracelets, etc. of recent fame take their cue from a thought that has been around for a long time.
The book has become a classic and can still be easily purchased today. Through the years it has sold over 30 million copies. But Sheldon’s story does not end with the conclusion of his book. Little did he know how personal the message of the book would become to his own life. What happened is that the book’s publisher failed to register the copyright properly which allowed other publishers to take advantage and also publish the book without paying any royalties. This basically caused Sheldon to be cheated out of a fortune. Little did he realize how challenged he would be to follow “In His steps.”
Let us turn our thoughts back to the text of 1 Peter which speaks of the mistreatment of Jesus and see what He did. The passage continues, “‘Who [Jesus] committed no sin, nor was deceit found in his mouth’; who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously…” (1 Peter 2:22, 23).
Did Jesus have the power to take matters into His own hands? We know He did! But instead, he put the matter into the hands of the Heavenly Father. Why? Because He taught his listeners by word and example that they were to obey the law of God. And in dealing with such matters the law stated that vengeance belonged to God (Deuteronomy 32:35; Romans 12:19). Hence, Jesus practiced what he preached.
While telling others about the ways of God is not always an easy task; “practicing what we preach” is truly a far greater task! Jesus lived the example before us perfectly! How well are we doing what He did?