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The basis for my values came from a simple question: How can I live my life the way that Jesus would, if Jesus were living my life? (This is a phrase my friends Trisha Taylor and Jim Harrington have used.)
If you grew up evangelical in the early 1990s, you might have worn a WWJD bracelet on your wrist. When faced with a difficult choice, good Christian kids everywhere would look to the bracelet and think, What would Jesus do?
Modeling values after Jesus seemed like a great plan. But in the spring of 1994, I looked anxiously toward my WWJD bracelet for guidance about which college to attend and for how to think about my sexual orientation, and immediately discovered its limitations. Jesus never went to high school in America, and he totally failed to take the SAT. And when it comes to sexual orientation, Jesus didn’t really offer much guidance. In fact, according to the biblical text, Jesus didn’t say anything about it.
It’s hard to envision living the same life as a man who lived two millennia ago, but I took my imagination for a ride and tried to picture Jesus living my life, here and now, and I started to see something different. I began to think he’d greet people on my Brooklyn street with a welcoming smile and offer up a silent prayer for the people surrounding him in the subway. He’d also use hair products and deodorant, if at all possible. At least, he would if he were living my life, because he might be schlepping boxes of veggies for the food pantry, fixing broken stuff in the church, or meeting celebrities over piles of human poop on the church steps.
This is a book about values and Jesus and transformation — and also about other related things. Here’s the miracle: an ordinary person heading to work on Wall Street one day can begin offering silent prayers on the subway and realize that everything is holy. She can have a vision of Jesus-in-my-shoes that transforms her from a competitive striver moving up the ladder of financial success to a city neighborhood pastor feeding the hungry.
This is a book about living out of your convictions and how that radically changes us and those around us. It starts with identifying your values. And listen, if it’s important for you to not use the word values (and you’d rather the right-wing fundagelicals keep it for themselves), use a different term — principles, anchors, God Code — and there you have it, “values” without judgment or shame.
During the Sundays of Lent, we will be running excerpts from Ann Kansfield’s Be the Brave One.
Reprinted with permission from Be the Brave One: Living Your Spiritual Values Out Loud and Other Life Lessons by Ann Kansfield copyright © 2021 Broadleaf Books.