WALKING

Gaylon Embrey

Except for a few hardy souls who are trying to walk themselves back into their original shape and those who are on an exercise regimen for reasons of health, no one does much walking any more. Most of us walk only far enough to reach the car.

The only reason I mention walking here at all is because I notice that it is the title of this little article; and because of the unusual number of references to the practice throughout the Scriptures. To walk means "to move along by foot, or to advance by steps." The word is used in this normal, physical sense in the Bible. But it is also used, much more frequently in fact, as a picture word. The first instance is in the case of Enoch who is said to have "walked with God." This hardly means that God and Enoch strolled along some dusty road side by side. It must rather mean that Enoch like all God's true children "walked by faith." (2 Cor. 5:7) In the figurative sense to "walk" refers to our overall conduct, the various activities we engage in as we move through time. Were we to push the imagery of the word to the extreme (which would not be wise) we might say that some people strut through this world; others seem to stagger and stumble; others mince or march; perhaps others wander or even waddle. But in the Scriptures the word most often used is simply "walk." Notice.

First we are told how NOT to walk. We are not to "walk in the vanity of our mind." We are not to "walk in the lusts of men." We are not to "walk disorderly." We are not to "walk in darkness." Instead, we are told to "walk in the light." We are urged to "walk in his paths." We are to "walk worthy of the vocation wherewith we are called." We are to "walk in wisdom." We are to "walk in love toward them that are without." And perhaps most importantly we are warned to "walk circumspectly;" that is, carefully and cautiously. But again the word is always WALK.

The reason I especially like walking (the word, not necessarily the practice itself) is because it is such an excellent picture of a Christian's life in progress. Walking contains the idea of movement, of going somewhere. So does riding. But the movement that occurs in walking is a special kind, quite different than what takes place when riding. Walking is the movement of a single individual. It must be individually learned. Most of us probably leaned to walk so many years ago we cannot now remember the difficulties first hand. Yet in watching our toddling children (or grandchildren) we are easily reminded that learning how to walk requires great effort and determination. It also demands personal motivation and the constant expenditure of one's own energy. Yes, we may walk along together, either two by two, or as a group, and if we grow weary may even lean upon one another for support; but in the end I cannot walk FOR you, nor you for me.

All this fits the picture of the Christian faith perfectly. Go back and read again how many "walking" verses there are in the New Testament. In my opinion the word "walk" is not employed by the inspired writers as the predominant image of the Christian life because it happened to be the most popular method of travel in those days. Bear in mind that Biblical characters did their share of riding too. Remember Balaam on his burro and Philip in the chariot? But the Christian life is not best portrayed by one riding along on some celestial vehicle bound for heaven. Walking is a much more accurate picture. For Jesus has come to show us the way, "leaving us an example that we should follow his STEPS." Or as John put it, "He that saith he abideth in him ought himself to walk, even as he walked."

In spite of all the talk about how we are to walk, things are quite different nowadays. Few professing Christians today wish to walk to the Promised Land; they prefer to be bused.

Please understand. There is no criticism here of the manner in which people get their physical beings from one place to another, whether they walk, go on horseback, by bicycle, or in a car. Being "bused" is fine too. Yet when I see a fleet of buses parked in front of a church building I cannot help but reflect on how SYMBOLIC the picture is, not only of the modern world but also of modernized Christendom. To be frank about it, riding a bus is a more accurate picture of the present spiritual circumstances than is the New Testament notion of walking. Think it over and you will see why I say this.

In the mind of most people today the "Church" proper is not perceived to be a band of disciples walking along, following behind their Master as he leads them in paths of righteousness, but rather as a divine vehicle graciously designed by God, built by Jesus and left here by the Holy Spirit for the purpose of transporting folks from earth to heaven. Thus the Church is viewed as being somewhat like a Gloryland Express that will carry all its "faithful passengers" to the gates of the eternal city. I am not misrepresenting this view at all. This is exactly what many folks think. The evidence? I read an article a while back in which a good brother clearly stated this concept. He wrote, "when the God of heaven planned the church as the CONVEYOR (emphasis mine) of saved people from earth to heaven, He provided everything needed for its function." There you have it. The Church is not saved people, but is a "conveyor" of saved people. What is a bus? It is a conveyor of people. The bus and the people who ride inside it are certainly different. So what is the correct concept of the biblical church? Is it a Bus (designed by God to convey saints) or is it the saints themselves striving to make their way to heaven? Take your pick. But it certainly cannot be both. That is to say, the "church" simply cannot be saved people and "the conveyor of saved people" at the same time.

Look at the picture further. On the Highway to Heaven there are many bus lines operating today, each with carriers bearing a distinct name and design. Since there is presumably only ONE Bus of Christ, a person must be careful to get on the RIGHT one. This is why prospective travelers spend so much time examining and comparing busses, trying to determine which is the most "scriptural" in form and fashion. They cannot afford to make a mistake here and get on the wrong Bus. But once a person figures out which Bus is the Lord's, then all he really has to do (according to this view of things) is buy his ticket, get on board, take his seat and settle in for the ride. For the Bus is what Jesus built. The Bus is what Jesus loves. The Bus is what Jesus died for. The Bus is what Jesus will save, or take to heaven. Therefore those who are in the Bus will be saved, those not in the Bus will be lost. Some seem to think the gracious Lord pays your whole fare for you, and that once you are safely aboard the Bus you will never get kicked off no matter what you do; others believe you pay for your ticket yourself with your own money and merit, and that it has to be punched again at least once a week, on Sunday.

In any case, on a bus you do not have to bother about learning the "way" on your own. The Bus Driver tends to that for you. He has been off to school to learn all about the divine transportation system. As the official Driver he surely knows the route. Therefore you need not read the road map, watch the road signs, or even keep up with the directions for that matter. As a paying passenger you can relax, take a nap on the soft seat, read a few magazines, or perhaps converse with other riders about politics, business, sports or the news of the day. There is absolutely nothing to worry about. You will make the heavenly destination simply because you are on the right Bus. To make you feel even better about things as the weeks go by, the Driver may periodically lecture all passengers about the evils and errors of the other Busses on the road, assuring you that they were built my men and one day will end up in the ditch. The bottom line is this. Once on board such a bus you do not need to put forth the slightest personal effort to keep moving to your destination, certainly not the kind of effort necessitated by walking.

Does the picture sort of fit?

True, the ancient practice of walking seems like a slow inefficient way to get anywhere, much less heaven. It would appear that a more mechanized way of travel; perhaps some kind of mass transit system would be faster and better. This is exactly what modern "Church religion" is trying to build and provide a way to HAUL indifferent, indolent Church members all the way to the portals of glory. It cannot be done of course. To get to heaven one must walk. And on second thought, walking may not be so bad after all. For one thing, big Busses are very expensive to buy. They cost scads of money to operate. Walking costs nothing. It is good exercise. More importantly, it is not the least bit dangerous. In the language of the Bible one may "stumble" or even "fall" along the way; but it is not too hard to get up with a little help from those who walk with you. Also, there are no wrecks to worry about when you walk. Busses sometimes have terrible collisions. But one pedestrian never runs into another and kills him. Nor, when folks walk, are there mechanical breakdowns and traffic jams to snarl up and stop the forward movement. In fact, slow as it may seem, it is virtually impossible to keep one who is persistent from walking toward his destination no matter how rugged the road. Think about it.

It is a long way from earth to heaven. But there is no need to look for a convenient ride in a holy Conveyance to take us there. How then are we to get there? By WALKING! The true Christian faith is beautifully portrayed by this ancient, universal and simple process. We make our way to heaven, as the old song says, "one step at a time."