Walking is a universally known concept. It’s one of those basic fundamentals that transcends from countries, societies, ethnicities, and classes. While it’s granted that not everyone has the ability to walk, and some others may have lost the ability to walk, generally speaking walking is a given. It’s typically not a matter of if (again granting those situations mentioned earlier), but when. This is why we make a big deal about a baby learning to walk and even brag when our children are “early walkers.” Given this, we understand that we do not come out of the womb walking, it’s a process of developing coordination, muscle strength, balance, and just plain old want to (desire). Once the clumsiness and tendency towards frequent falls have been overcome, walking seems intertwined with daily life. Apart from physical limitations, we rarely give walking a second thought. Once mastered, it becomes as routine as breathing and blinking. As a behavior, walking gets us where we need to be, from point A to point B and it represents progress along that path.
For these basic, universally understood reasons, perhaps it’s an easy explanation for why the concept of walking is used so often in a metaphorical sense to refer to the Christian life. Of particular interest is the letter to believers at Ephesus. Surveying this letter, we find the commonly translated word for walk, peripateo, used no less than seven times throughout the book. This word is a compound word from peri, a preposition meaning of, for, about, and pateo, meaning to tread. It’s easy to see that to walk is a reasonable translation. However, we’re talking not so much about literally one foot in front of another, but metaphorically. Given what we know about walking and then applying it to the Christian life, we can come up with a working definition such as, “the consistent direction, pattern, and progress of the Christian life.”
In Ephesians, we have the following uses of walk:
- Ephesians 2:2 – refers to our old pattern of walking as unbelievers
- Ephesians 2:10 – refers to walking in the good works, which God prepared beforehand
- Ephesians 4:1 – an exhortation to walk in a manner worthy of your calling
- Ephesians 4:17 – an exhortation to no longer walk as the Gentiles (pagans), in the futility of their minds
- Ephesians 5:2 – An exhortation to walk in love
- Ephesians 5:8 – An exhortation to walk as children of the light
- Ephesians 5:15 – An exhortation to monitor how we walk, not as unwise, but as wise.
Clearly, at least according to the divinely inspired apostle’s letter, the Christian walk matters. In parallel with our physical walking which we discussed above, our new birth in Christ supplies us with the ability to walk in a manner consistent with our profession of faith in Him. However, our spiritual muscles need to be strengthened, our theological coordination and moral balance need developed, and our hearts need to have the desire to progress and move. These can only happen as the Holy Spirit works in our lives through the Word of God. Furthermore, this walking happens more efficiently with someone holding our hand, encouraging us to take a step, one foot in front of the other, ready and willing to help us should we fall (Philippians 3:17). In a sense, this is a picture of discipleship. Once we learn to walk, there’s of course no guarantee we wont stumble (James 3:2), no promise that a limb will not be disjointed or become lame (Hebrews 12:13), nevertheless walking in a consistent, godly manner should become as secondary nature as breathing (Romans 6:4; 8:4; Galatians 5:16). We should therefore encourage and exhort others in their walk, picking up those who stumble, and guiding those who have yet to learn to walk.
The Christian walk is how we know and are known. It is the measure of our growth and progress in the Christian life. It is not enough to make a profession of faith in Christ, we need also to have a walk that reflects the reality and truthfulness of that profession.
“So as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God” Colossians 1:10