“Walk the walk”. When I hear that phrase, I know that it means something for me. Get it together. There is a way you should be acting and things you should be doing. Generally, I think I’m a pretty good person and I think I do what I’m supposed to. But when I hear about “the walk”, it makes me reconsider my efforts. Have I really done what is required of “the walk”? Do my choices and actions really follow the path of “the walk” that you are talking about?
I begin to wonder what I really have to do with “the walk”. I mean, who decides what “the walk” really looks like? We most often hear it associated with “talk the talk”. The walking imperative really means to practice what you preach, follow up what you say with action, to do what you talk about. I guess it makes sense that we hear this in Christian circles so often. Especially in this circumstance, it means doing the things that they confess with their mouth and living out their spoken faith in an active way. So how do I do “the walk”? One might believe that walking the walk is living a life of complete tolerance, equalizing everything no matter what their belief or background. Or maybe walking the walk is abstaining from every evil and following the commandments from God. Many a Christian may have the general idea that “the walk” we are talking about has to do with living out the golden rule and serving each other. Yet there remains a grave problem if we only see “the walk” like this.
Because I am really terrible at walking the walk. I can pretend for a little bit, but as soon as the phone is put away and it’s just me and my sin, I am fearful about what my walk says about me. I know what I should do. There is no lack of advice for a better walk with the Lord. But I can’t quite seem to do it. There is always someone I fail, there are too many I have hurt. I may lie about their unrealistic expectations or highlight my efforts even if I don’t succeed. But I’m not quite walking the walk. I’m falling short every time.
Unfortunately, it is not just me. You also are doomed to “walk the walk” of which we all talk. We can read the word of God and we learn about the depths of our wretchedness, “No one is righteous, not even one”. Even as good as our best effort are, it’s not enough to solve the problem of sin and death that we all still experience. So what is this “walk”? How can we possibly do it?
St Paul refers to us Romans, that we are those “who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” There we are: those who walk. Yet, if believe that my walk, my actions, my decision is the driving theme here, I might be surprised. When St. Paul talks about us, it is only a little descriptive side note about us being those who walk. The main point of these verses speaks about the greater truth of who we really are. He speaks passively about our contribution to our walk, “the law was fulfilled in us”. Meaning, we did not keep the law, we did not fulfill the commands, we did not walk the walk. It was done for us. To make the point even more shockingly, God is the subject of this entire action from the beginning. “For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do.” God acted, God walked, God did the thing that had to be done. We are just the people who walk the walk: those who possess the finished law of God. This means that there is nothing for more my walk to accomplish, because it has already been done and fulfilled.
But what was this walk that Paul is talking about? Is it us doing the things we confess? Is it us acting in love all the time? Is it living out the word that Jesus had come to teach? No! This is what the walk looks like: God fulfilled his commands. God condemned and killed his own son as a sacrifice. God paid the righteous requirement of the law to himself. For you. And so here you walk.
Imagine the breathtaking Garden of Eden. Creations of God, made of be exactly what he wanted them to be, man and woman walking around with their God. The word was free between heaven and earth, it was not masked and bound. Man could hear and understand. God would speak and listen. The Almighty walked with his own fleshly image of himself easily and beautifully. The Hebrew word הָלַךְ “to walk” described what man heard in the Garden when God was present in Creation. After man’s disobedience in Genesis 3:8, “the walk” of the presence of God rightly terrified his creatures. They were sinners, they were ashamed of their own walk away from God. No longer could God and man spend endless hours speaking freely, for now the whole fabric of love and trust had been destroyed.
But truly, God’s unveiled walk with man was a gift given, and a now a lost gift longed for. That is, until, God descended as a baby boy to once again walk with his creatures. Shrouded in flesh, covered in sin, Christ once again walked with the beloved creation. And in Romans 8: 3-4, God’s walk is the gift given in the sacrifice of Christ. It’s God’s chosen path to make us righteous. Scripture tells us this is God’s action from the beginning to end. It’s a curious thing that we want to ascribe “the walk” to ourselves.
This is highlighted beautifully in the next couple of verses. They make it crystal clear how we “walk the walk”. After speaking about us as those who “walk” in Romans 8:4, the verb switches drastically in verse 5. We are not walking, doing, making life choices, as the rumors want us to believe. “For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.” You just are. God has done all of the work – and now you are. You are either flesh or you are spirit. It is not like it is your choice, decision or path here. Remember, God has done all of the work. So these verses are telling you about your identity given by God, began by Him, fulfilled by Him, finished by Him.
Interestingly enough, many translations will color the Greek word εἰμί “to be” with more of what you should do. “For those who live according to the flesh…” Did you catch that? LIVE according to the flesh retreats responsibility back into your “walk” and hints at leaving this all up to your faithfulness. Even after the whole building discussion from Romans 1 to this point, clarifying that there is nothing you can do, nothing you even want to do. The Word of God clearly teaches that the only righteousness you have is an identity given and fulfilled by God by the Gospel of Jesus Christ. But it’s hard, for each and every one of us, to escape again to the natural wicked pressure to “walk the walk”.
Who are you to walk the walk? You are wicked. But you are declared righteous. You deserve death for failing to walk in the law of God, and yet the law is already done in you. Your hands and heart are captivated by sin, and you have been crucified with Christ, dead to sin and live in the newness of life. You are of the flesh because you are trapped in this body of death. You are of the Spirit, because you were buried with Christ and completely free from death and sin. You walk the walk because it was a gift. not because you could do it, make the right choices, or even talk the talk. You walk the walk, given the free gift of God which is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.