I think one of the most unanticipated blessings that I have observed to come out of this pandemic, has been the increased level of physical exercise people seem to be doing. It appears that this ‘reasonable excuse to leave your home’ during lockdown, has sparked a renewed fervour to get out of the house, stretch the legs and explore the LGA – all while keeping yourself safe and sane! I know for myself, the length and number of walks I’ve been doing since lockdown began has seen a dramatic increase. And it feels good to get out!
With all this walking it has made me reflect on a familiar metaphor for our life in Christ, namely, the Christian walk. Paul exhorts us in Ephesians 4:1: “to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called,” (see also Col 1:10; 1 Thes 2:12). Paul is saying that Christianity is not just some ticket to heaven that has no impact on the here and now, but it is a way we walk through life following a particular pattern of conduct we are called to. Not that we are saved by how well we walk, but because this is who we are in Christ (See Eph 2:1-10)! What an interesting thought! For the early disciples – when Jesus beckoned them to ‘come, follow me’ they would literally move their legs to walk as they followed him around everywhere. They would watch what he did, listen to what he said, and they were challenged to ‘go and do likewise’. And they did! They imperfectly sought to follow the example of Jesus. They imitated him in word and deed. They walked THE Christian Walk.
Obviously, we don’t have the privilege and joy of literally following Jesus around. But we are still called to follow him. We are still called to this Christian walk.
What does this look like? Well, Paul goes on in Ephesians and says it means breaking from old patterns of behaviour: We must “no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds.” (4:17). If your ‘Christian walk’ looks no different to your unbelieving past or to lives of those around you, you might want to question if you really are walking THE Walk!
Instead of modelling our walk on this world we are to “be imitators of God, as beloved children. 2 And [to] walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” (5:1-2). The Christian walk is to be characterized by love that reflects both God the Father’s love for us as His Children (5:1), and Christ Jesus’ sacrificial love on the cross (5:2). This is no easy walk. To die to self and to live for God and others everyday is hard work. Dare I say it is an impossible task! That is, without help. But praise God, he who calls, equips. And he has provided us two crucial aids in this walk: His Spirit and His people.
It is no accident that the language of walking fits so well when Paul speaks of the Spirit in Galatians 5:25 “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” The Spirit is given to help us follow Jesus. He convicts of us sin (John 16:8). He gives us new desires to love and serve God (Gal 5:16-17). He give us wisdom in following Jesus (John 14:26; Eph 1:17). And He helps us in our weakness (Rom 8:26). What a gift the Holy Spirit is to us in the Christian walk!
But Secondly, God has given us His people – other Christians – to help each other. In Eph 4:11-16 – we have this grand image of the Church as ‘the body of Christ’. Now just consider – if that is a true picture of what it means to be a Christian (see also 1 Cor 12; Rom 12) – then who is doing ‘the Christian walk’? Well, It’s CHRISTIANS! But we walk as One body, TOGETHER! There is no such thing as solo Christianity! You cannot do the Christian walk without other Christians. In fact, it is as non-sensical to say that two legs can walk by themselves without a body! It just doesn’t work! Paul says Christ is the head of the body and “from him the whole body…grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work!” (4:16). You need me and I need you to walk the Christian walk together.
And so let me conclude by encouraging you to merge the metaphor during this pandemic. Do the Christian walk, building up of others in love, while physically walking with them. Legally, you can walk with one other person in your LGA. Why not call up someone from Church you haven’t seen in a while and organize a walk with them. Not just to catch up but to intentionally ask them: “How’s your Christian walk going? How is your Bible reading? How do you find this pandemic has affected your prayer life? What are you doing to grow in Christ during this time?”
Let’s continue walking with Jesus and each other through these challenging times – to the glory of God!
Your brother In Christ, Craig Stalder
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