What would it look like if Jesus drove your bus?

I stared blankly back at my pastor as I chewed my salad and thought this over. I couldn’t come up with an answer, but to be fair, I hadn’t been expecting a question. Rather, I was anticipating an answer to my question, which was; since the world seems to be on a collision course with destiny, (and this was before COVID) how should I go about telling my friends about Christ so that they are rapture-ready and not doomed to an eternity of torment?

My pastor went on to say that, yes, at some point in the future, we will face the end times. However, we have no idea when, and it still might be a long way off. In the meantime, for thousands of people in the world, today will be their end time as they meet Jesus face to face. So, the question is not ‘what can you say to convince people that they need Jesus’, but rather, ‘what can you do to show people Christ every day?’ Yours may be the only reflection of Jesus they have an opportunity to see.

Now I’ll admit that at first, I wasn’t very inspired by his response. It was, in effect, ‘what would Jesus do?’, and as a kid growing up in the 90s I had seen the WWJD bracelets so many times the saying had lost its punch. Still, as I mulled our conversation over, I began to seriously consider - what would it look like if Jesus drove my bus? And then I had an epiphany.

As well as being a Bus Operator, I am a filmmaker. One day, as I was deep into figuring out a character’s motivation, it struck me that, “I don’t need to wonder abstractly about what it would look like for Jesus to drive my bus; I have all the writing/directing tools I need to literally pretend to be Jesus and find out firsthand!” So, I picked a day when I would spend two shifts acting like Jesus, punched ‘drive’ on the bus control panel, and said, “action!” But not out loud, that would have been weird.

At the time it seemed a little irreverent, as I am, after all, a mere mortal and not the Son of God. But acting, in the simplest terms, is about choosing an action that best meets the needs of a character’s underlying motivation, then filtering the action through their personality, and your own life experiences, to determine how the character would carry it out. I defined Jesus’ motivation as ‘to do what is in the best interest of the person I’m dealing with for their sake, not mine,’ i.e., to act in love.

Now, my editor/wife says that I need to take a moment to explain why acting like Jesus in my profession was going to be a challenge. At the time, I had a rocky relationship with bus driving. It was not my first career choice, and I always looked at it as a job I had to get through to pay the bills so that I could work on my real career of filmmaking.

It was also stressful; imagine driving a forty to sixty foot, sixteen-ton shipping container through rush hour traffic, manning the till, and handling customer service questions/complaints, all while trying to maintain an unrealistic schedule that hadn’t been updated for years. All these stresses had been intensified by the fact that one of my colleagues had been murdered on the job a few years prior, which left me treating people at best with caution and at worst, outright combativeness.

As I pulled up to my first passenger, I asked myself, what would Jesus do in this moment? Look them in the eye. Smile. Greet them.

“Morning,” I said.

They smiled back, paid their fare, and sat down.

Okay, I thought, that’s what I always do. I’m going to have to dig deeper.

When I picked up the next passenger, I said, “Good morning.” I had dropped the ‘good’ from the traditional post-dawn, pre-noon salutation earlier in my career because it was often fired back with a sarcastic, “Is it?”

Instead, they said, “Good morning,” back. Okay, so far so good?

A few stops later, I saw intending passengers trying to cross a busy street and waved to let them know I would wait. When they boarded, instead of feeling annoyed that waiting for them had put me behind schedule, I accepted their gratitude with a sincere, “You’re welcome.”

And so it went. Every decision I was aware of, I made the way I thought Jesus would make it. Some decisions were the same ones I make daily, most were not.

As the day went on, I found it becoming easier to act like Jesus. At first, every choice required a conscious decision, but gradually it became instinctual; more than instinctual - there was also a correlating feeling of the presence of God. It was a feeling of supernatural joy, peace, patience, and insight. I found that I could read people better, allowing me to interact with them in a way that matched their emotional state. I was able to answer questions quickly and accurately, as well as ask my own questions which started conversations that allowed me, much to my surprise, to share about Jesus.

In fact, the experiment went so well that I tried acting like Jesus again the next day, and then the rest of the week. I began to notice not only a change in myself but also in my passengers. People smiled more, they seemed happier. And then a strange thing happened. Usually, the bus is a quiet place these days, with everyone listening to earbuds or reading their phones. But after two weeks, I noticed that the bus was louder - there were conversations happening. It started to feel like a community.

I applied acting like Jesus to my home and church life as well and had similar results. The more I practiced doing what I thought Jesus would do – serving others and considering their needs before my own – the more I felt his presence. It was like opening a tap, and the Holy Spirit was flowing. I knew I had stumbled onto something good, and I was going to stick with it.

But then COVID-19 happened, and everything became muddled. It is exhausting to make decisions moment by moment all the time, especially for someone who likes to let their mind wander, so with everything that was going on, and the barriers that made communication harder, my intentionality began to fade.

Not all was lost, however; my relationship with Bus Operating is better than ever, and I took away some great lessons and insights, the main of which is that ‘what would Jesus do’ is a call to action, not just contemplation. Being Christians, being Christ-like, is not just about pondering what Jesus did, but doing what he did. We are the hands and feet of Jesus; he works through our deeds for the enrichment of others. It is an incredible responsibility and a great honour.

‘For we are all God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God created in advance for us to do.’[1]

I also discovered that, while I was initially concerned that my experiment was a little irreverent, the apostle Paul had ideas along the same lines: ‘…clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires on the flesh.’[2]

‘…for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.’[3]

And perhaps the most encouraging insight of all; sometimes, WWJD can be as simple as a smile.

[1] Ephesians 2:10

[2] Romans 13:14

[3] Galatians 3:27

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