“Walk the walk.” When I hear that phrase, I know there’s something for me to do. Get it together girl. There is a way you should be acting and things you should be doing. Generally, 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.” Who decides what “the walk” really looks like? We most often hear it associated with “talk the talk.” This walking-talking imperative really means to practice what you preach and follow up what you say with action. I guess it makes sense that we hear this in Christian circles so often. It means doing the things we confess with our mouths and living out our 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. There remains a grave problem if we only see “the walk” like this because we are all 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, 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 fall short every time.
You also are doomed to fail 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” (Romans 3:10). Even as good as our best efforts are, it’s not enough to solve the problem of sin and death that we all still experience.
In Romans, St. Paul says we are those “who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” There we are, those who walk. If I believe that my walk, my actions, my decision is the driving theme here, I might be surprised. This is only a little descriptive side note from Paul about us being those who walk. He speaks passively about our contribution to our walk, “The righteousness of the law was fulfilled in us.” This means we did not keep the law; we did not fulfill the commands, we did not walk the walk. It was done for us. To drive home his point, Paul speaks of God as the subject of this entire action from the beginning. “For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do” (Romans 8:3). 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 more for my walk to accomplish because it has already been done and fulfilled.
But what iswas 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 precisely as what He wanted them - man and woman walking around with their Creator. The word was free between heaven and earth, it was not masked and bound. Man and woman 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 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. Now the whole fabric of love and trust had been destroyed.
God’s unveiled walk with man was a gift given, and then a lost gift longed for. That was until God descended as a baby boy to once again walk with his creatures. Shrouded in flesh, 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 five. We are not walking, doing, making life choices, as the rumors want us to believe. We just are - either we are flesh, or we are Spirit. “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.” God has done all of the work – and now you are. These verses tell you about your identity given by God, began by Him, fulfilled by Him, finished by Him.
The Word of God teaches that the only righteousness you have is an identity given and fulfilled by God through the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
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 redirects responsibility back onto your “walk” and hints at leaving salvation up to your faithfulness. The Word of God teaches that the only righteousness you have is an identity given and fulfilled by God through the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Despite this truth, it’s easy 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 made completely free from death and sin. You walk the walk because it is a gift.