It is not commonly known that popular W.W.J.D. bracelets and other products originated from the question phrased by the protagonist of Charles Sheldon’s book (Smallwood par. 2). However, this novel is remarkable not only for its commercial success and readers’ passionate interest in 1896. In His Steps is not a mere religious opus: as the story runs, one perceives different characters and dives in the situations that make ponder about the contents of people’s behavior. The book carries the message for everyone: before doing something, it is necessary to consider whether this action is virtuous.
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The story is set in Raymond situated supposedly in the eastern USA. The façade seems ideal: clear and bracing air, sky free from threatening signs, and note-perfect people attending the church (Sheldon 7). However, the author signals that the mental image of the town is far from being righteous. Segregation has become an indispensable part of the town’s life: the working class never mixes with the prosperous and important persons. Those who lose their jobs will hardly meet Raymond Christians’ sympathy: they will sink in «misery, drunkenness, and sin” (Sheldon 13). Corrupt practices, greed, and scandals constitute the daily routine of the town.
The book starts with the morning the Rev. Henry Maxwell, the pastor of the First Church of Raymond, meets a man asking for help. Maxwell brushes him away, but doubts start ruling him as he looks at the “dejected, homeless, and forsaken” figure (Sheldon 5). Later on, the same tramp comes at the Sunday sermon and calls the congregation to meditate on the Christian compassion and people similar to him. Next Sunday, the pastor introduces the question “What Would Jesus Do?” that parishioners should ask themselves prior to any action. Further, the book pictures individuals’ lives affected by this simple words. A wide range of characters in Raymond and Chicago are represented. A reader witnesses how persons’ characters transform from complacency to the first-century Christian integrity.
In this context, the changes in two characters may illustrate the immensity of the changes. Self-complacent and pleased with his best churchgoers, Maxwell is suddenly challenged. While the real life turns out to be not so glorious, he makes a decision that becomes the turning point not only in his life but also for numerous people. He finally does what he should. Another character who shows decency is Rachel Winslow. A talented singer, she rejects her career and devotes her talent to God. Apart from singing in the church, she assists Mr. and Mrs. Gray with meetings in the Rectangle. Rachel’s life now belongs to Christ.
Written more than a hundred years ago, the book will be of interest to a modern reader. The author describes the 18th century setting but appeals to the eternal values relevant to everybody. Using the technique of regionalism, Sheldon makes the text lifelike and colorful: dialects and realistic descriptions (for example, the funeral description when Loreen lays in state at the Page mansion) are used.
Overall, the value of the book In His Steps: What Would Jesus Do? is that it makes readers think. The author addresses to the true meaning of Christianity and compares the lukewarm present rituals performance with the core values. While this novel is instructive and persuasive, it also brings the pleasure of watching how people’s characters gradually change for the better. The book may be recommended not only to Christians but also a wide audience interested in human nature development.
Sheldon, Charles. In His Steps: What Would Jesus Do? Chicago, Moody Publishers, 2013. Print.
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Smallwood, Karl. “The Fascinating Story of How the “What Would Jesus Do?” Slogan Came About.” Today I Found Out.