Although not the first to pose such a question, Charles Monroe Sheldon certainly deserves credit for popularizing the query, What would Jesus do? Each individual in Sheldon’s story who accepts the pledge is allowed freedom to act according to his or her conscience and as directed by the Holy Spirit. In their quest for divine guidance, the characters frequently pray.
In His Steps emphasizes a need to redefine Christian discipleship. Maxwell’s congregation comprises those in Raymond who are affluent and comfortable. His invitation to follow Jesus challenges them to consider living less selfishly. Living by the pledge serves as an essential test of discipleship. Ultimately, sacrifice, self-denial, and suffering are essential to following in steps of Jesus.
Furthermore, these new Christian disciples face accountability regarding their positions, wealth, and talents. When consecrating all that they have to the service of God, they seek to utilize their resources by sharing them with their neighbors and to bless those in need. Hence, the characters consider themselves connected with the early Disciples of the ancient Christian church who consecrated their lives to living like Christ, including having all things in common (Acts 2:44). This keen sense of accountability leads Maxwell and others to social action and reform efforts in their communities. In addition to their motivation to act as Jesus would, these new Christian disciples perceive a divine nature and the worth of the immortal soul in every human being regardless of external appearance, behavior, position, or class status.