The “He Would Love First” movement

Patricia Holbrook of Soaring With Him Ministries

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Patricia Holbrook of Soaring With Him Ministries

I did not realize it was a movement. I had seen the bracelet in my daughter’s wrist, similar to the one I wore in the late ‘90s — W.W.J.D. (What Would Jesus Do) — but this one had a different acronym: H.W.L.F. (He Would Love First). She showed me a website filled with gear containing the letters — from bracelets to hoodies — a movement embraced by her generation of Christian teenagers and young adults seeking to answer the question: “What Would Jesus Do?”

Curious that I am, I found the website where the brand’s founder tells the history of the popular acronym. In a one-minute video, Casey Shultis explained that he wore a “W.W.J.D.” bracelet for many years but realized that many people he encountered did not know the answer to the question. Because they did not know God, these people did not realize that God indeed “so loved the world.” Not just the churchgoing, seemingly “good” people, but the entire good and evil world.

In an interview with VoyageATL magazine, Shultis expands on the story that birthed the brand: “(It) comes from my journey as a follower of Jesus. I grew up in the church, and my faith was never really a question. When I went to college, I was challenged with a lot of questions, from existential to philosophical to moral. My faith had to become real to me and not an obligation. I came to God with a lot of baggage and things one would assume needed ‘fixing,’ and he encountered me with life-changing love that rewired my perception of who he really is.”

His heart-warming story put a smile on my face. I love to hear about young people who are not afraid to stand up for their faith in a world where religion is mocked and atheist college professors and popular influencers question the very existence of God. Indeed, I applaud young men and women like Casey Shultis and my daughters, who are not afraid to answer the questions in love but with firm conviction.

The answer to the popular “W.W.J.D.” question offered by Shultis’ movement and brand could not be more accurate. There is no question that God’s love is his foremost attribute when it comes to his dealings with humanity. He loves sinners with a dying love. He sacrificed his son for the sins of the thieves that hung on crosses beside him for the same reason he did for Mary, Jesus’ devoted mother. We are indeed all sinners. “There is none righteous, no, not one,” as the apostle Paul reminds us in the third chapter of his epistle to the Roman church.

As much as I love the concept, the “He would love first” idea can be easily misunderstood due to the surge of another perversive movement that is flooding our churches these days. It’s the notion that a God of love tolerates sin. Anyone who truly studies Scriptures understands the idea, beautifully translated in the famous account of the woman caught in adultery in the eighth chapter of the gospel of John.

In an attempt to frame Jesus, a group of teachers of the law and Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery to receive the punishment that the rabbinic law prescribed for that sin — death by stoning.

Scriptures describe Jesus’ astounding response:

“(He) bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, ‘Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.’”

As each leader dropped his stone and slowly left the scene, Jesus gave his hand to the woman and declared, “Neither do I condemn you. Go now and leave your life of sin.”

This powerful account translates the truth about God’s nature concerning sin. Yes, God is indeed love, and in his grace, he extends forgiveness to the depth of our sin and brokenness. It is certainly not in his nature to condemn us, but it is also true that he hates anything that hurts us or separates us from his holy presence. A holy, righteous God cannot abide in a heart darkened by sin, and it is because he loves that he cannot tolerate that which has the potential to destroy us.

“He would love first” is no doubt the correct answer to the question “What would Jesus do?” Let us only not forget that his love for every sinner does not extend to loving sin.

“No age has been more prone to confuse the sin with the sinner, not by hating the sinner along with the sin but by loving the sin along with the sinner. We often use ‘compassion’ as an equivalent for moral relativism.” —Peter Kreeft

Patricia Holbrook is a columnist, author, blogger and international speaker. Visit her website to learn about her speaking ministry, Bible studies and book. For speaking engagements and comments, email