Just recently my lovely wife of sixteen years told me that I walk “funny.” Funny? Since when do I walk funny? Granted, at that particular time I was a little tired, and in my defense, I was wearing a pair of Crocs, which cause me to drag my feet just a bit. My pride was deeply hurt, but after a brief moment of reprieve, I collected myself, straightened up my act, fixed my gate, and picked up my pace.
How self-conscious we are about the way we walk. We could spend a fair amount of time discussing all the psychological factors that contribute to how we carry ourselves in the watching world, but as a simple matter of fact, walking is a form of non-verbal communication. The real question to explore is, what are we communicating?
In Colossians 2:6, Paul gives implores his readers:
6 Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, 7 rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. 8 See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. (Colossians 2:4-8, ESV)
Notice the clause “so walk in him.” For some, it may be easy to miss in a passage so rich with apologetic import (2:4,8) and deep Christological significance in the following passage (2:9-15). But upon second glance, this phrase has everything to do with apologetics and Christology, and among other things such as our sanctification.
Scriptures uses the metaphor of walking to describe how we live. In a general sense, it communicates how we live our lives in light of our convictions (or lack of them) (Ps 1:1), but in a more specific way as it applies to Christians, it connotes our life with the Lord (Gen 5:25). If the idea of “walking with Christ” were not profound enough, Paul takes us to a whole new dimension of our relationship with Christ. We are to “walk in Christ.”
Being “In Christ” is a dominating theme in this epistle (1:14,16,19,2:3,6,7,9,10,11,12,15, 3:20,4:7,17). Walking with someone is a concept we could grasp based on our own experiences, which we could conceptually transpose to our relationship with Jesus, but “walking in Christ” is something that has no parallel in any human relationship. There is no diagram or Sunday school flannel board that is able to show us this union we have with Christ. It cannot be measured or recognized by our human senses, hence the theological designation of “mystical union” with Christ.
Our being in Him is sovereignly wrought by the Holy Spirit, but our response to that amazing reality does not leave us passive. Paul calls us to consciously walk in Him, which is to live our lives as a testament of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This is the apologetic value. Every step of our walk is to be intentionally subjected to His Lordship that the world may know that Jesus has all authority. And we walk in confidence. Abraham Kuyper said it best, “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is sovereign over all, does not cry, ‘Mine!'”1 But this news is not received well by those who refuse His Lordship. Expect conflict.
Like it or not, we are in a war. Don’t let anyone tell you any different. But our war is not fought like any other worldly conflict. One of the things that makes it so radically different is that we must love our enemies (Matt 5:44). This radically counter-intuitive directive would alone seem to guarantee failure. How foolish! Could anything be more against our primal instincts? No, but that is what our Warrior King Jesus commanded us to do. Gospel proclamation is not about destroying people; it is about destroying falsehood with truth. Let us never cease to be amazed at the tactics God has given us for the spiritual warfare we are in. Consider Paul’s words to the Corinthians:
3 For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. 4 For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. 5 We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ. (2 Co 10:3–6)
Notice the theme of walking again, as well as another theme: captivity (v. 5, cf. Col 2:8). Either we take “every thought captive,” or we are taken captive by “philosophy and empty deceit.” Lest we underestimate the dangers of not being “rooted and built up in him,” I once knew a young professing Christian who spent too much time in online debates at skeptic forums. Hoping to fulfill 2 Corinthians 10:5, he got to the point where he became overtaken with doubt. Among other issues in his life, backed into a philosophical corner and unable to scale the Kantian wall, he thought the only way to settle the question of God’s existence was to hope for grace and end his own life. The critic may think that religion was his problem, but quite the opposite. He understood full well the bankruptcy and utter meaningless of existence if atheism were true. The idea of God in the world was not his problem; it was the the idea of a world where God didn’t exist that sent him to his watery grave. Yes, we are in a war.
How then shall we walk? What does your walk look like? Is it a natural outflow of your mystical union Christ? Are you intentionally being rooted and built up in Him by spending time in His word and the other means of grace He has provided? Does the watching world recognize the authority of Christ manifested in your walk? More importantly, does Christ recognize the sound of His footfall in your gate? He has already given us all we need to win the battles before us, therefore, just as we have received the Lord, so let us walk in Him.
1 James D. Bratt, ed., Abraham Kuyper: A Centennial Reader (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998), 488.
*All Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version (ESV).