Wednesday, September 05, 2007

When Shoplifting Comes to the Bible Book Store

What Would Jesus Do? I am struck by the irony of that question as I stand behind the counter of a Bible Book Store, holding the empty display card for a pewter pendant with the initials WWJD cut into the metal. Found tucked among gift books, the card no longer carries the pendant.

The question posed in the classic novel, In His Steps, first published in 1896 has caught the imagination of several generations and launched a marketer’s dream in small retail products. It is a fair question to ask, even in a pluralistic society.

Shoplifting is not a major problem in most Bible Book Stores, but it does sometimes occur. I wonder if the person who slipped the pendant around their neck, secreted the card, then walked out the door – ever thought about the question asked on the simple symbol they wore?
What Would Jesus Do? It is an intriguing question. There is quite a bit of “religion” in the lives of many of us, but sometimes not all that much love for God or other people. It fascinates me that the rebukes from Jesus recorded in the New Testament almost invariably focus on very “religious” people whose lives show little love for God or neighbours. It disturbs me though, because I have spent my whole life in church circles. I speak the “native” language fluently. I can go through the motions when I am more than half asleep. I have to ask myself frequently if some of those rebukes should be directed my way.

The empty display card testifies to petty theft. There is a wounding deep inside me over the smallness of that act. Yet I can’t help but wonder how often my life wounds others.
What Would Jesus Do? – Perhaps I need to ask that question myself a bit more often. Perhaps the person who stole the pendant will be confronted by the question, and the ripple effect from Charles Sheldon’s classic novel will impact one more life.

More than 50 million copies of the book have sold in the 111 years since it was first published, asking What Would Jesus Do? For shoplifter, Bible Bookstore employee or church-board chairman, it is still a question well worth asking. I can confidently claim that Jesus wouldn’t shoplift or condone shoplifting. But would He condemn, or would He show compassion for the soul-hunger that light fingers try to feed?

It is no easy thing in any store to love the shoplifter. But somehow the inconsistency of it in a Bible Book Store adds an extra measure of insult to the financial injury. The irony of the question asked on the stolen item, What Would Jesus Do? does not lessen the insult; adds to it in fact. Yet, compassion for deep soul-hunger must be the driving force of the staff behind the counter.

What Would Jesus Do? The question is as pertinent to me as to the thief. I dare not forget that.

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