Walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light (Colossians 1:10-12 ESV)
I'm a Mr. Rogers kid.
There are a lot of us, and every now and then I run into another one — someone else who as a small child regularly joined Fred Rogers in the Land of Make-Believe on Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, listened to his great stories and watched his puppets and fervently hoped that while the stories were pretend, what he said about liking us and how much we mattered really was true. Whenever I hear "Love your neighbor as yourself" or "Who was a neighbor to the man who fell among thieves?" read from the Bible, I still think of Fred Rogers asking me from our brown wooden console TV with the big, "clicky" channel-changing knob, "Won't you be my neighbor?"
Anyway, last Christmas I got a desk calendar of Mr. Rogers sayings, obviously marketed to thirty-something Mr. Rogers kids like myself. I can't vouch for his statistics, but on one of the calendar pages Mr. Rogers claims that he read somewhere that the average person over the span of his or her life will walk about 65,000 miles. (Surely Mr. Rogers wouldn't make stuff up ....) "That's two and a half times around the world," he says. (It's a little over two miles a day if you live to be 85.) And then he says this: "I wonder where your steps will take you? I wonder how you'll use the rest of the miles you're given?"
I think I get what he's wondering. It's not how far you walk that matters as much as it is how you walk.
Jesus didn't get his 65,000 miles on earth, even if you account for the fact that he seemed to walk everywhere. But, his life mattered because it was his Father who directed his steps and guided his feet. If Jesus walked somewhere, it was because that was where God wanted him. If he stopped, or turned in another direction, it was because that's what God wanted.
There are other people for whom that's true — who didn't get their 65,000 miles, but who made a difference with the miles they walked. You know some of these people — by name, if not personally. And you also know some for whom the converse is true. They got their 65,000 miles and more. They lived long lives, kept putting one foot in front of the other, but went nowhere — or worse than nowhere.
"Walk in a manner worthy of the Lord," Paul wrote. Most English translations of that verse say something like "live a life worthy of the Lord." That's probably a better translation. It's what Paul meant, of course: "walk in a certain way" was a good Hebrew way of saying "live in a certain way," and the figure of speech comes through in the New Testament Greek largely written by people with Hebrew backgrounds.
However you prefer to translate it, Paul and Mr. Rogers are saying basically the same thing: "It's not how far you walk that matters, but how you walk." Mr. Rogers just leaves it open to reflection. Paul has a particular way of walking in mind: "Walk in a manner worthy of the Lord."
That's pretty tough, isn't it? If you don't read that and get a little flutter in your stomach, a little dryness in your mouth, then maybe you're not paying attention. "Worthy of the Lord"? We're accustomed to thinking that we can't be worthy of the Lord. That's sort of the point of the gospel, right? Jesus did what we weren't able to do? That's true, of course, but Paul isn't really talking about that. He isn't saying that we have to live in a way that demonstrates we're worthy of salvation. He's saying that we are to look at Jesus and live in a way that makes it clear that we're walking in his footsteps.
There's a great scene at the end of Saving Private Ryan, after Captain John Miller and the platoon he commands have literally given almost their last drops of blood to ... well, save Private Ryan. In this scene, Private Ryan holds a dying Captain Miller in his arms. Fixing Ryan with a hard stare, Miller says, "Earn this. Earn this." And you can see, as Private Ryan thinks of the price that's been paid for his life, he is overwhelmed. Earn this? How does a person earn this?
The gift has been offered, the price paid. It's not conditional upon his earning it. But, Miller does want Ryan to never forget that the price paid for his life places a certain responsibility upon him. The path that he and his soldiers walked to give Private Ryan a shot at his 65,000 miles should make a difference in the way Ryan walks those miles, shouldn't it? Otherwise, the sacrifice goes unappreciated.
When the miles have been purchased with someone else's blood, it's not how far you walk. It's how you walk.
Well, the gift has been offered for us, and the price has been paid. Jesus walked the miles he was given in complete submission to his Father's will — even though he knew too well that his Father's will included a lash, a cross, scorn, ridicule, rejection, nails, and a tomb. He literally gave his last drops of blood so that we might have the freedom to walk the miles we're given in light and joy and peace, free from slavery to sin, free from despair, free from the terror of death.
I wonder where my steps will take me. I wonder how I'll use the rest of the miles I'm given.
Will I use them to "bear fruit in every good work," seeing the miles I'm given as an opportunity to contribute to the sum of good done in the world? Will I walk some of the miles of my life beside the poor, the sick, the overlooked, and the broken-hearted like Jesus did?
Will I use them to "grow in the knowledge of God," seeing every step as an opportunity to know him better and trust him farther?
Will I learn to see him walking beside me?
And will I walk with the people who will help me to know him better?
Will I use them to "give joyful thanks to the Father?"
Wherever my miles may take me, will I choose to thank God for his blessings instead of cursing my misfortune?
And will I keep my eyes on the end of my journey, anticipating the glory and light of my destination?
Worth wondering, don't you think? It's not how far you walk or how many miles you're given that really matters. It's how you walk.
It's a heavy cost that was paid for those miles you walk. Walk them worthily.
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