“For you know how, like a father with his children.” 1 Thessalonians 2:11
God treating us like children is a common theme in Scripture:
- “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him.” 1 John 3:1
- “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” Ephesians 5:1-2
- “You shall walk in all the way that the Lord your God has commanded you, that you may live, and that it may go well with you, and that you may live long in the land that you shall possess.” Deuteronomy 5:33
- “When Abram was ninety-nine years old the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless.” Genesis 17:1
- “Blessed is everyone who fears the Lord, who walks in his ways!” Psalm 128:1
A lot can be understood by how a person walks. Some stride purposefully with their heads high and shoulders back. Other people glance nervously around; moving hesitantly and carefully as though stepping through a minefield. Some swagger or strut confidently while others slink or shuffle. Kids run and bounce off walls. Each has their own style that inaudibly announces to the world what manner of person they are. Similarly, the way Christians walk should be a clearly understood indicator of who we and, or more importantly, “Whose” we are.
What does the Bible mean by the word “walk?” It is used hundreds of times throughout Scripture and each occurrence paints a part of the picture that can help us understand God’s purpose for us. Of all the men in the first genealogy found in Genesis, Enoch and Noah are the only two who “walked with God.” Interestingly, God must have really enjoyed the fellowship because He took Enoch to Heaven as a relatively young man. Noah was chosen to preserve life in a foreshadowing of the work that Christ would do for us. The history of the nation of Israel throughout the Old Testament is a rollercoaster of kings and priests who either “walked after” righteousness or after unrighteousness into judgment. We have the same choice. We can walk after our righteous Father or we can “walk around on the roof” open to sinful impulses like David (2 Samuel 11:12). We can “walk before” God in faith as Abraham did or we can stumble in sinful self-righteousness (John 8:39). We can run our race to win (1 Corinthians 9:4) or we can dig a hole and sit on the talents our Master has given us (Matthew 25:25). From the Garden to the Law of Moses to the Epistles, hundreds of commands and imperatives of how to walk can be listed. From the beginning, these lists separated God’s people from the rest of the world. Strict obedience was the indicator that these people were different, set apart. Because of the redeeming work of Christ, we are now free to joyfully fulfill all those commands out of gratitude to our Father. In 1 Thessalonians 2:11-12, Christians are being begged to “walk after, walk before, and walk with” God; to walk worthy of Him. We are to bring glory to Him through our lives.
So, how do we actually do this? Jesus condensed all the lists down to one all-inclusive thing: love! It is love for God and love for others.
There are a number of examples from Jesus’ life of what walking in love looks like:
- Jesus laid down His divine privileges and sacrificed Himself for us (Philippians 2:3-8). Jesus said, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:12-13). We, like Christ, should humbly lay down our self-interest and put the needs of others first to the glory of God.
- Jesus had compassion for those who were hurting (Matthew 9:36; 14:14; Mark 1:41; Luke 7:13; John 11:35). Can we feel compassion and weep with those who are broken and hurting? We should have real empathy for the needs of others, feel their pain, cry at their sorrow, hurt at their loss, and help meet actual physical needs using our own resources.
- Jesus showed real caring and tenderness toward children. He rebuked His disciples openly for trying to prevent children from coming to see Him. It made enough of an impression that three of the Gospel writers recorded the event (Matthew 19:14; Mark 10:14; Luke 18:16). Not only are we commanded by Christ to have simple faith in God the way a child does, but one of His strongest warnings of punishment is made against those who cause a child to stumble in their own walk after God (Matthew 18:3-6).
- Jesus demonstrated a servant’s heart (Mark 10:42-45). Would we wash our enemy’s feet (John 13:5)? Could we face a crowd of hungry people and meet all their needs, while at the same time, knowing they were not committed, but just there for the free food (John 6)?
- Jesus interceded on behalf of His disciples and all believers (John 17:13-26). Do we love someone enough to ask our sovereign, all-powerful King to help them? To restore them? To protect them? To save them from their sins (James 5:14-20)?
May we be a people who can say with the beggar who Jesus healed, “I was lame but now I walk!” May we walk worthy of the One who has given us all things pertaining to life and godliness. May our walk be one that is easily recognized as different from the world; a walk of love.
“I have no greater joy
than to hear that my children
are walking in the truth.”
3 John 1:4