Sermon: Epiphany V — What is involved in walking in Christ?
The Lord be with you.
Health experts tell us there are many benefits to walking. Walking is one of the easiest and most accessible forms of exercise. It can be done almost anywhere and at any time. It is safer than other forms of exercise, creating less stress and strain on your body. Walking is available to anyone who can do it –you don’t need a lot of equipment beyond a comfortable pair of shoes, and you don’t need to join a gym or find a facility or follow some complicated regimen.
Walking can also provide a means of engaging other people. When you walk side by side with a friend or a group of companions, it gives you a chance to talk and share with each other. But walking alone can be beneficial too. Taking walks in solitude creates a rhythm by which a person can think, and pray, and dream. Walking also slows down so that we can pay attention to the beauty in even the most common scenes around us.
Many pilgrims have sought God while walking. Some paths, such as the famous Camino de Santiago, is a pilgrimage that people have taken for over a thousand years. Some churches have built labyrinths, circular paths designed to help people practice contemplation. Some Christians walk the Stations of the Cross to meditate on Christ’s sufferings. My wife is part of a walking Bible study where the group discusses the scriptures while strolling together.
Walking is one of the simplest, most healthful practices we can do to keep our minds clear, refresh our bodies, and lift our spirits. When we walk with others, we enhance our relationships. And walking can help us cultivate a conversational relationship with God through meditating on his words and speaking to him in prayer.
Today, in Ephesians 5, verses 15-21, Paul encourages to pursue three ways of walking in Christ.
First, walking in Christ involves pursuing wisdom. “Be careful then how you live [walk], not as unwise people but as wise, making the most of the time, because the days are evil. So do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” Paul urges us here to walk carefully, to walk wisely, to walk in such a way that we make good use of the time we have and not waste it.
Why is it important to walk with Christ in wisdom? Because, the Apostle says, the days are evil. Now, remember, he wrote those words about 2000 years ago. The fact is, life in this world has never been easy. It has always been filled with complicated questions, temptations that are hard to avoid, and obstacles that will always try and prevent us from following the way of Christ. It always will be.
So, we need wisdom. We need to understand what the will of the Lord is, as Paul says. When I was in church youth group as a teenager, our youth leader had us memorize passages from Proverbs, one of the Bible books that teaches wisdom. He had me begin with Proverbs 2:
“My son, if thou wilt receive my words and hide my commandments with thee; So that thou incline thine ear unto wisdom, and apply thine heart to understanding; Yea, if thou criest after knowledge, and liftest up thy voice for understanding; If thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures; Then shalt thou understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God. For the Lord giveth wisdom: out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding.”
Our youth leader knew what we needed most. As young people in Christ, he tried to create in us a hunger for wisdom, knowledge, and understanding. We needed to grow up, to pursue a more mature perspective on what it takes to walk in God’s peace and serve the Lord. And the process hasn’t stopped. I find I need to keep seeking God’s wisdom more and more the older I get. How about you?
Second, walking in Christ involves pursuing a life of worship. Paul writes, “Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but be filled with the Spirit, as you sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, singing and making melody to the Lord in your hearts, giving thanks to God the Father at all times and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Let me paraphrase this — “Learn to party like Christians, not like people who waste their lives getting high and seeking cheap thrills.”
Paul is not saying that Christians should never drink alcohol or have a good time, he is saying that there’s a whole population of people out there who don’t know how to find joy in much else. If we’re followers of Jesus however, Paul says, we have the Spirit within us and the Spirit gives us an appreciation for activities that are more profound and meaningful: being together as a church family, singing songs of praise and thanksgiving, and worshiping God together.
There are lots of ways to find thrills and happy experiences in life, and I don’t think Paul is denigrating them. But he is commending a wiser approach to these things, and encouraging us to put our emphasis on things that really matter. It’s not just about going to church either. It’s about walking with Jesus, cultivating a lifestyle in which weightier things take priority and we find joy, meaning, and fulfillment in the relationships and practices which help us live well together, with joy and thankfulness.
And that leads to the third aspect of walking in Christ: Walking in Christ involves pursuing a life of serving others. Paul’s next exhortation is, “Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ.” If we are going to walk in Christ, if we are going to walk with Christ, then we will find ourselves walking in the places where he walked and relating to others as he did. And that means we are going to walk in love.
Love means that, like Jesus, I’ll want to spend time with others. Love means I will try and be a good listener. Love means I will look for ways to be helpful. Love means I won’t insist on my opinion or my own rights all the time, but will defer and learn to respect others’ perspectives, even if I disagree.
Love means I will watch for ways I can benefit others’ lives — at times that could mean performing some action to help them, at other times it might mean leaving them alone, or sometimes it may mean letting them help or serve me in some way. Love also means recognizing that we are going to fail each other often and that we will need to practice patience, forbearance, and forgiveness regularly. Being subject to one another means that my faith in Christ will work itself out in a life of love and service to others, in these and other ways.
What does it mean to walk in Christ? According to the Apostle Paul, it means pursuing a life of wisdom, pursuing a life of worship, and pursuing a life of loving service to others. Christ has raised us from sin and death to walk in this kind of new life.
The practice of walking is healthy for our bodies and minds. But walking with Christ as Paul encourages us here is not only healthy for ourselves and our own spiritual formation, but it also, through us, can help restore God’s life and shalom to the world around us.
May the word of Christ dwell in us richly in all wisdom. Amen.