Each New Year’s Day I am confronted with the challenge of wanting to get physically and spiritually fit, but also confronted with the challenge of my all-too-human inclinations. I found some help in my reading this morning of Ephesians 2:1-10, or, to be more accurate, it was the commentary on Ephesians by Markus Barth (Anchor Bible) that provided the help in understanding the Apostle Paul’s words. Barth’s translation of Ephesians 4:1-2 reads:
(1)You, especially, dead as you were in your lapses and sins … (2) in the past your steps were bound by them. You were following this world-age …
The literal translation is “the sins in which you formerly walked”. “To walk”, Barth tells us, is one of the Apostle Paul’s favorite verbs, which he used as a metaphor for living an ethical life. Walking is “a choice of steps on a given ground in a given direction” (Barth, p. 213). Walking with God, getting spiritually and physically fit, is “a choice of steps”. I do have the freedom to choose this new way of life, which has been made possible by the resurrection of Jesus Christ. This new way of life is a gift from God (“by grace you have been saved, through faith … it is a gift of God” Ephesians 2:8), but I have the choice to activate it! It is life-changing to know that God’s resurrection power underlies my choice.
It is “a choice of steps” – each step, no matter how small, counts in the new life. Every time I keep my appointment at prayer, or join the church at worship, read a good book, go for a walk, do exercises, do an act of kindness and justice, even writing a blog – every step counts and furthers me and others on the journey.
Walking with God is “a choice of steps on a given ground.” What ground do I choose to walk on? Is it a place that promotes health and well-being for myself and others, or will it be destructive? Is it a place of supportive community or is it toxic? If I choose the given ground, its context will be life-affirming because it too will be a gift from God, made possible through the resurrection of Christ.
“A choice of steps on a given ground in a given direction” – formerly I followed the direction of “this world-age,” the spirit of rebelliousness. Now I may follow the guidance of the Spirit of Christ, another gracious gift of God. Think of the best tour guide you have ever met. I am thinking of Malcolm Miller who is a guide at Chartres Cathedral near Paris. He brings the story and spirituality of the Cathedral to life in an inspiring and illuminating way. The Spirit of Christ is like that, and even better!
As I begin a New Year it is immensely helpful and hopeful to know that my walking with God is made possible by God’s mercy and kindness and resurrection power, and I am not left to my own devices.