“Footprints” Thoughts

One of the great inspiring messages is “Footprints.” It’s author is unknown, but frankly that added to its popularity since it lacks any copyright issues. There are some claims as to who first wrote it. Some thoughts on the authorship and inspiration of it can be found at https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/evangelical-history/where-did-the-footprints-poem-come-from/

I always liked the story and can recall having one of


those wallhangers with the story on it. But writing a sermon recently I began thinking about it more, and had reason to disagree with the story… just a bit. That being said, I am not trying to say, “It is wrong.” Rather, I am saying that perhaps the imagery can be a bit misinforming in some ways.

On a positive side, the story utilizes the image of walking and walking with Christ as a metaphor for the Christian life. I feel that is a strong metaphor. I did several posts a few years back on the use of “Walking With” as a metaphor. You can look at these if you want

Walking With. Part 1

Walking With. Part 2

Walking With. Part 3

Walking With. Part 4

Walking With. Part 5

Walking With. Part 6

So why would I have any problems with Footprints then? There are three (somewhat) minor issues.

Issue One. Task-Focus versus Person-Focus. In the imagery, Jesus carries the writer during difficult times. To me the image is one of being task-focused. The person goes through a time that he can’t continue, and Jesus carries him. To stay with the person in a difficult time suggests person-focused. To keep moving by carrying the person suggests a bit of greater interest in keeping to the task than to the person. But I believe that Jesus is more committed to us as people, than to the tasks we do.

Issue Two. Dependency. In some manner we are to be dependent on God. But generally speaking, God seeks us to mature, and that maturity comes through the trials. Peter notes that we go through suffering. James notes that we develop perseverence through the testing of our faith. The image of the story suggests more of a coddling. Kelly O’Donnell (in “Doing Member Care Well”) has noted that Jesus Christ in His handling His disciples maintained a balance that could best be described as in the region of Comforter and Challenger, while avoiding the extremes of Coddler and Condemner. Carrying to me suggests coddling.


Issue Three. Example. As I noted in my sermon (HERE). Jesus is our model for ministry. God did not create us with great power. He gave us the ability to be present with others in their struggles. We can’t carry people through their times of pain and struggles. We can suffer with the suffering. We hurt with the hurting. We can struggle with the struggling. We can take none of these things away. We can embrace a ministry of presence. We can bear the burdens of another, but only with mutuality, where others also bear our burdens.

Of these three issues, the only one that I consider strong is the third one. The first two are picky. However, if we want to understand what we are to do, following the example of Jesus, we need to understand that Footprints does not give us a good understanding of that role. It does, however, give a good image of the Christian life.

Here is another perspective (thanks to Chaplain Sal for sharing…

“Walking With” as Metaphor for Missions

In my Theology of Missions class, I asked my students to present their metaphor for missions. We do that for pastoral care in CPE (Clinical Pastoral Education) but this is my first time doing it for a Missions class. A metaphor links together two disparate things… typically one abstract, and one concrete. I shared my metaphor to give them an idea. I chose “Walking With.” It is “concrete” to the extent that it is directly observable.  Anyway, this is what I shared. Looking forward to hear what my students came up with.


The metaphor that strikes me for missions is “Walking With.”

While a metaphor does not have to be based on the Bible, this one has strong Biblical Roots.

1.  Relationship. “Walking With” implies some form of mutual relationship. A stalker may share a common path with the stalkee, as may two strangers coincidentally and temporarily share a common path. Neither would be said to be walking with. Walking with implies some form of positive relationship. Missions work is grounded on a relationship with God. Genesis describes Adam and Eve walking with God in the Garden, and then later Enoch walking with God. In these cases, they seem to describe an idyllic relationship.

2.  Agreement. As Amos 3:3 notes… two cannot walk together unless they agree. The relationship is by mutual agreement. Jesus call to missions of Peter, Andrew, James, John and others was built on the call “Follow Me.” Micah in Micah 6:8 says that we are called to “walking humbly with” God.

3.  Movement/Process: Walking implies not so much a state of being, as much as a process. Life and faith and mission are not so much a place or destination… but a dynamic moving along a path. The early church saw the Christian life commonly as those on the narrow path, as opposed to the wide path. As such, a Christian is not sitting in a place, but actively on a holy quest… a pilgrimmage.

4.  Direction:  Walking has direction… a path that one goes on. It could be a trail newly blazed, it may be a well-worn path… but it goes somewhere. Psalm 23 sees God as a Shepherd who guides us in the ways of righteousness… even when those paths may lead us through the valley of the shadow of death. Likewise John 14:6 describes Jesus as the way. While the way in this case could be seen as the access to God, it is consistent with the idea that our life is a path, and Jesus provides that path to go.

5.  Commonality of Place and Time. Walking with means that two or more share a place and time on the path. As such, the path has more than direction, but a NOW, as well as a PAST, and a FUTURE. Walking with Jesus means that in its fullest sense, He is with us.

Our life exists in both space and time, and God is with us in the same manner. So we look back on our life to see God with us. We can look now as ones inhabited by God… and we can look to the future with full expectation that not only will God be with us, but in line with Proverbs 3:5-6, He is at work, making straight our path.

So how does this metaphor inform my theology of missions?

  • Consistent with Henry Blackaby and Avery Willis, I can say that “God is on a mission, and invites each of us to join Him.” God is dynamically working… moving. To be with God… to walk with God means to join him dynamically in such working.
  • The common perception of the “Missionary Call” needs to change. To serve in missions is not to embrace a static state or location. Rather, it is to follow Jesus. When Jesus called the disciples he did not say… Come and be cross-cultural churchplanters. Rather, He said… Follow Me. Essentially… Go where I go. Do what I do. Your calling is not a title or a place… but a determination to follow where God leads.
  • Walking with is centered on obedience, but does not deny mutuality and free will. Walking with is always described as a choice we make. We have a right not to. Also, walking with is primarily understood in terms of relationship more than a physical path… so there is room for freedom. In the Gospels, the apostles would physically follow Jesus… but after his resurrection, he told them to go… without a lot of details, but noting that He would always be with them.
  • Walking with implies an intimacy with God that transcends nation, land, and culture. Sometimes people speak of going to Godless lands. Not only is that wrong in general… but wherever we go, in our walking with God… God is there.
  • Walking with draws into question the common folk Christian wisdom that when happy things occur, that means that we are close to God, and when bad things occur, that means we are distant from God. After all, in the Bible… the paths of righteousness are as likely to be through the valley of the shadow of death as the green pastures and still waters… as likely to be the wilderness as the promised land.


Note:  A much longer version of this metaphor can be found as an extended post broken into five parts. Part One can be found CLICKING HERE.

On the Theme “Walking With” : A Missions Theology. Part 6

Do You See Yonder Wicket-Gate The Pilgrim's Pr...
Do You See Yonder Wicket-Gate The Pilgrim’s Progress Macgregor PubJack 1907 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This last section looks at Missions from the standpoint of Missions practice. As such, it is not, strictly speaking, drawn from the theme “Walking With.” Rather it is dialogue between practice and principle. I believe that the basic principles flow from the Biblical understanding of “walking with.”


God (as drawn from the OT) relates to His own in terms of walking with. In this we are to be close to Him relationally, guided by Him, based on humility and love. Failure to walk with God in this sense is what we call “sin.”

Christ relates to us in line with God’s relationship with us as described in the Old Testament. The addition is that Jesus modeled this abstract concept with the incarnation. The call of Christ is to follow Him. We have the obligation to choose to follow Christ or follow the path of the world.

The Church is called upon to love the world… but rejecting the path that the world is on. Rather, the church is to follow the path of truth, righteousness, and peace while in the world. Our call is to proclaim the message of God, and prepare the way for Christ. 

How can we relate this to missions?

1.  God leads. This may be obvious. But God leads us in the paths of righteousness and the way we should go. God is on mission (refer to Blackaby and Willis in “On Mission with God.”).

2.  We follow. As a disciple, we follow Christ. In joining God on His mission, we are sent out by Him… still being led by Him. 

3.  We go. We live led by God in the ways of righteousness, but in the world. As such, we follow the model of Christ in dwelling and interacting with those who are on the wrong path. We prepare the way for Christ in this world by inviting people to join us in following God… the straight path. As John Perkins notes with regards to Christian Community Development, relocation (as in moving into the community in which transformation is sought). It seems like this principle should be applied beyond the narrow bounds of community development.

4.  We model. Invitation is not enough. The path of God is characterized by Righteousness, Love, Peace, and Truth. As we share truth, promote peace, practice love, and seek righteousness, we decorate the Gospel.

5.  They choose. Regardless of one’s opinion about freewill and God’s election, from a human perspective… people choose. They choose the path that they desire. Ideally, as they see the path, process, and life Christians are on, they desire it, and follow you as you follow Christ. Hopefully soon they will understand that they are following Christ and you are only assisting them in that path.

Okay… this is pretty simple set of items… some might describe them as self-evident. But in missions nothing seems to be self-evident. I would like to suggest there are some aspects of missions that don’t fit into this set of principles.

A.  Distance missions. Just send money is not missions. I am in missions so I certainly don’t mind if people send money.  But missions is incarnational. It involves face-to-face and heart-to-heart experiences.

B.  Propositional evangelism. It is okay to memorize the Romans Road or Evangelism Explosion or the Wordless Book. But truth is not enough. Christian missions is based on living out God’s path in a process. Propositional evangelism is of value only within the context of godly living in interactive relationships with others.

C.  Futurist focus. Christianity is a hear and now religion. The path we were given is in this world. We can, rightly, be comforted in a confident future. But that in no way means we should minimize the importance of where we are, who we are, and what we are doing… here. Faithfully walking the path God has placed for us is more important than setting dates for His imminent (or perhaps delayed) return.

D.  Militant focus. We may be justified in singing “Onward Christian Soldiers” and I was in the military and believe that there is good in the military and in militaristic symbols. However, our relationship with the world should be more characterized by love, peace, and righteousness, than by militaristic (both offensive and defensive) metaphors.

E.  Signs and Wonders, and Power Encounter. Christian missions is described best in day by day faithful living that relates to the world around us with truth, love, peace, and righteousness. This sort of living provides a considerable challenge to others when they compare it to the lies, selfishness, conflict, and sinfulness that surrounds them. Miracles certainly may have their place… but there “non-ordinariness” suggests that they are not part of the normal Christian ministry. In fact, sadly, sometimes miracles are done (whether actual works of God or works of chicanery) in place of  truth, truth, peace, and righteousness.

F.  Narrow definition of missions. Missions is following Christ and living out the path He has given. In certain circumstances it may be useful to define missions in terms of profession, in terms of cultural bridging, in terms of finance, or in terms of calling. But ultimately, we indeed are meant to be on missions and as long as we are alive on earth we are in the mission field.

This ends my 6 part (it was going to be 5 part) series seeking to look at missions theology through the theme of “walking with.” I hope it has some value to some.

On the Theme “Walking With” : A Missions Theology. Part 5

Christ in Gethsemane (Christus in Gethsemane),...
Christ in Gethsemane (Christus in Gethsemane), oil painting by Heinrich Ferdinand Hofmann (Heinrich Hofmann). The original is at the Riverside Church (Riverside Church, New York City). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The next step is to look at the relationship between the church and the world. As we look at the relationship between the world and the church we are drawn into the idea of missions… or joining in God’s mission to the world.

I believe there is a lot of value in the metaphor “walking with” as it pertains to missions, or the church’s involvement with the world. However, there are some deep problems with the metaphor as well. Until we deal with the problems, we cannot see its valued use.

A major challenge with the metaphor “walking with” for the church and the world is strong negative messages in the Bible associated with the term world. Read Psalm 1 for the challenge of walking with or living in “the way” of the world. I John 2:15 says that Christians are not to love the world and that love of God is incompatible with love for the world. Likewise, James 4:4 says that friendship with the world is hatred toward God. I John 2:16-17 notes that ways of the world are sinful and that the world is passing away. James 1:27 warns Christians not to be polluted by the world.

If we stopped here, we would be pretty sure that Christians should only have a combative relationship with the world… and certainly there are war metaphors in the Bible for Christians. However, there are other passages in the Bible that add complexity to God’s attitude about the world, and the recommended relationship between the Christians and the world. God made the world (Acts 17:24) Jesus was sent into the world (John 1) because of God’s love for the world (John 3:16, 17). Jesus is the light of the word (John 1:9), its Savior (John 4:42), and gives life to the world (John 6:33). God is presently working to reconcile the world to Himself (II Corinthians 5:19).

How does one reconcile this? Some like to focus on the world as God’s creation (something God loves) versus the world system (something God hates). To me, I feel it more useful to see the difference as “the world” versus “the way of the world.” The way of the world is the wide path that leads to destruction. A Christian is one who should follow Christ, and the path of light. As such, a Christian should reject the path of the world.

Christians are supposed to be on the way of righteousness (II Peter 2:21), the way of the Lord (Acts 18:26), the way of God (Matthew 22:16), the way of peace (Luke 1:79), the way of love (I Corinthians 14:1), the way of truth (II Peter 2:2). But… where is this way, where is this path? The way is IN THE WORLD. The narrow path, the path that Christians are supposed to follow is in opposition to the way of the world, but is still in the world.

The issue then is not where Christians are, but who they are following. Christians are supposed to be following Christ. So what is the relationship between Christians and the world? I would like to suggest three relationships associated with the idea of walking with.

  1. We are to be sent out by Christ. John 20:21 says that as Jesus was sent by the Father, we are, in like manner to be sent out by Christ (Also see John 18:17). Being sent out might imply that we are not following Christ. However, following means following the direction of Christ. Since Jesus also noted that he would always be with us, even to the end of the age, and that He gave us a Comforter (God’s Spirit) to be with us everywhere, sending us out is still leading us while walking with us. Related to this was the term used for Christ’s disciples… apostles. The term literally means “sent out ones.” Even though one cannot rely strictly on etymology, the idea of being an ambassador.
  2. We are to be prepare the way for Christ. John the Baptist was given the responsibility to go ahead of Christ’s arrival to prepare His way. The disciples of Christ were also told to do the same (Luke 10). We may be following Christ’s command as “sent out ones,” but we are to prepare the hearts of others so that they are ready for the message of Christ. Again, the idea of being an apostle applies. An apostle goes out as an ambassador to prepare the way for their leader… their king.
  3. We are to to show the way for people of the world to follow. The first term used to describe Christians was “the Way” (Acts 9:2; 19:9, 23; 24:14, 22) implying I believe, that not only did they believe that they were following the way of God, but the way that others should follow as well… the way to be saved (Acts 16:17).

A passage that says much about Christian’s relationship with the world is in John 17:13-21. This is Jesus praying to God the Father shortly before His death.

“I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth, your word is truth. As you sent me int the world, I have sent them into the world. Them them I sanctify myself that they too may be truly sanctified. My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. ”

Christians have to live in the world… and do so because of God’s will that we be in the world. Christians are in some way not of the world although born in the world… and are to be sanctified (set apart) as special. However, that special status is to be sent into the world to carry out God’s work in the world. That work includes giving the message of Christ so that others join in following Christ through believing.

“Walking with” now includes some more aspects. We are to follow Christ, being sent out by Him into the world to prepare the world for Christ and His message. Christians are to be on the path of righteousness being a guide for others to follow. In so doing, by guiding people in the way they should go, Christians are leading people into following Christ.

The last post of this series will seek to connect the principles related with walking with, to missions principles. There will be a bit of reverse engineering here… but I would like to say that it is setting up the groundwork for dialogue and evaluation.

On the Theme “Walking With”: a Missions Theology. Part 4

The idea of “walking with” continues into the early church age. But there is less emphasis on it as a metaphor. The metaphor of walking referring to a way of life is strong. Particularly, the emphasis of the choice to walk according to God’s will or against God’s will is clear.

St. John used the idea of walking considerably. I John 1:6,7 talks specifically about walking in light versus walking in darkness and the theme continues throughout the epistle. It is clear in I John 1:6,7 that walking in light or darkness is linked to fellowship or togetherness. Further on in John’s epistles there is expansion in the idea to walking in truth, walking in obedience to Christ’s commands, walking as Jesus did, and walking in love. John in Rev. 3:4 speaks of faithful members of the church of Sardis as walking with Christ. The Revelation passage notes that it is because of their faithfulness and obedience to Christ that they are deemed worthy to walk with Him/

A fairly similar metaphor to “walking with” is “walking in the footsteps of.” Romans 4:12 refers to believers who walk in the footsteps of faith as Abraham walked. 1 Peter 2:21 describes how we are to follow Christ, walking in his steps. These two passages demonstrate the relationship (that of following) but not necessarily how close. Following was an important theme. I Timothy 4:1 and 5:15 note that one may choose to follow Satan or deceiving spirits. On the other hand one can follow the example of Christ and the way of love (I Corinthians 11:1 and 14:1). II Peter 2:15 notes apostates of having left the straight way and having followed the path of wickedness. Paul not only suggests that people should follow Christ, but that one should follow his own example (II Thess. 3:7-9)

Up to this point, there is little innovation or expansion on the thoughts previously in the Old Testament and the Gospels. But there is an important difference coming. Up to this point, following after Christ, or waking in the path of righteousness could be an extremely individualistic thing. Arguably if two are both following the righteous path, there is some amount of commonality… but not necessarily a true unity or relationship. Even more, statements by St. Paul to follow himself could be viewed as divisive. But this is where we need to dig further.

Although Paul said to follow Christ in I Corinthians and to follow himself in II Thessalonians, Paul clearly rejects the possible interpretation of disunity, as one can see in I Corinthians 1:12ff. There he rejects the idea that following someone should imply disunity. To make this clear, another metaphor is brought in. The idea is that baptism in the name of Christ demonstrates the unity of the church. (It is rather sad that water baptism due to different interpretations and forms has become a point of disunity in the church.) The point is expanded later in I Corinthians 12 to the idea that everyone in the church as been baptized (immersed as a common unifying experience) in one Spirit… the Spirit of God. (Again it is rather sad that “spirit baptism” has been reinterpreted in recent decades as a dividing experience rather than a unifying relationship.) In I Corinthians 3 clarification is also given with the idea of a building and having different roles in the building is not divisive.

Following Christ, walking in His steps, is tied directly to unity in the Spirit of God. Beyond the concept of the church being baptized in the Holy Spirit, Romans 15:5 speaks of God giving a “spirit of unity” to those who follow Christ. This does suggest that unity is not automatically the result of following Christ. That actually makes sense since mutual obedience to Christ does not automatically imply mutual relationship. Yet such a relationship (walking with) is desired by God. The Spirit of God is seen as a unifier. Jude 1:16-19 speaks of apostates who seek disunity and follow after evil desires as not having the Spirit of God.

Many of the early church writings (for example the Epistle of Barnabas) continued with the theme of two ways… the way or path of light, and the path of darkness. However, for a related metaphor to “walking with,” one can consider “running together.” It carries a similar set of implications but has roots more in the area of athletics. Of course, running a race is used several times in the New Testament… but it is in the writings of St. Ignatius that the idea of “running together” is used as a call for unity in the church. One example of the use of “running together” is:

Give ye heed to the bishop, that God also may give heed to you. My soul be for theirs that are submissive to the bishop, to the presbyters, and to the deacons, and may my portion be along with them in God! Labour together with one another; strive in company together; run together; suffer together; sleep together; and awake together, as the stewards, and associates,and servants of God. (Epistle to Polycarp, Chapter VI)

Admittedly, Ignatius tended to link running together to submission to church leadership (a bit of an obsession with him) but still the end goal is unity in the body of Christ.

In the early church age as we see in the Epistles and the early church fathers, walking is seen as living out a choice of going with God or in opposition to God. However, two additions are made. First, walking with God, following after Christ is to involve unity within the church. Unity in this case does not appear to be primarily focused on political or governmental unity (Ignatius may disagree). The focus is on relationship and spirit. Secondly, as we walk together we have a connection or unity in Spirit of God.

The final two posts in this series will seek to take the insights of the previous posts and link them with sound (and hopefully Biblical) principles of missiology for a missions theology built around the theme of “walking with.”

On the Theme “Walking With”: a Missions Theology. Part 3

The Road to Emmaus appearance, based on Luke 2...
The Road to Emmaus appearance, based on Luke 24:13-32, painted by Joseph von Führich, 1830. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This section looks at the metaphor of “Walking With” in the context of Christ and our role as a disciple.

In the Old Testament, Walking with God was understood (with the possible exception of Genesis 3) as metaphorical. However, in the New Testament, we have the story of Jesus. Jesus is described in terms of God with Us (“Immanuel”). The Incarnation, God enfleshed, shows a taste of restoration, of God literally walking with Man, akin to what was lost in Genesis 3. The idea of God with us emphasizes His immanence, providing balance to our understanding of His holiness and transcendence.

In three years of primary ministry, Jesus walked with His disciples through Judea, Samaria, Galilee, and bordering territories. In fact, the defining description of commitment to Christ wasn’t “born again,” “born of the Spirit” or “redeemed” or other terms that are mentioned on occasion in the Gospels. The defining description of commitment to Christ was “Follow Me.” The concept of “walking with” leaves open who, if anyone, leads. With Christ, the leader is clearly Christ, but the idea is that the following is done with Christ. When Peter was half-hearted in His commitment to Jesus, he was described as following at a distance (Matthew 28:58).

Commitment to Christ (having faith in Him, if you prefer) is seen in following Christ and being with Him in where He goes. Jesus called disciples to “follow Me” (Matthew 4:19, Matthew 8:22, John 21:19). These had a literal sense as well as a figurative sense. Other places, Jesus said to follow Him in a more figurative sense.

Jesus describes Himself not only as one who walks with us, leading us, but also as one who is the path or aiding in travel on the path.

John 14:6 says that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life… the one and only means to come (to be accepted) to God the Father. The term “way” is the word road or path. It is figuratively used. Jesus describes Himself as the one and only path that one can travel on to be with the Father. It reminds one of Matthew 7:13-14 where Jesus describes two roads with two gates, one is wide leading to destruction and one is narrow leading to life. Additionally, both the John 14 and Matthew 7 passages reminds one of John 10:1-11. In this, there is a dual metaphor. Jesus describes Himself within the context of shepherding as a gate that only some may enter through. Additionally, Jesus describes Himself as a shepherd, in which only His sheep (disciples) will recognize and follow.

An additional figurative role in terms of walking with is seen in John 8:12. The passage talks about being the light of the world. However, it goes on to point out that those who follow Him will never walk in darkness. The image seems to be of one who has a lantern. Walking with Him, and being led by Him, we have light to walk safely in the way we should go. One might note that in Psalm 119, the word of God is described as being a lamp and a light for our feet as we walk on the pathway of our life, and that John 1 describes Jesus as God’s Word, closing the circle.

Other verses and ideas can be delved into, but this seems like a good place to stop. The idea of Christ walking with us describes God being with us in a very literal way, but also describes commitment. He leads and we are called to follow Him… closely. Faith in Christ is seen in following Him closely. Christ is with us, He is also described as the path and entrance (only road and access) to God the Father and life. He also is the one who lights the path. One who does not follow Christ is on another path. That path does not lead to God and life. One on such a path is walking in figurative darkness with the ultimate destination of destruction. The idea of walking with, as it pertains to Christ, notes His closeness, His reliability, and His necessity.

The next post will look at “Walking With” in terms of Christians within the Community of Faith. From there, hopefully, the points will be brought together towards a missions theology.

On the Theme “Walking With”: a Missions Theology. Part 2

English: Adam and Eve were both naked & were n...
English: Adam and Eve were both naked & were not ashamed, as in Genesis 2:25: “And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.” (KJV) illustration from the 1728 Figures de la Bible; illustrated by Gerard Hoet (1648–1733) and others, and published by P. de Hondt in The Hague; image courtesy Bizzell Bible Collection, University of Oklahoma Libraries (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In the previous post, I mentioned doing some reflection of a Missions Theology built around the them of “Walking With.” I might not be the first to do this… I should read more. Anyway, in building towards Missions, I would like to start from looking at God’s relationship with us built around that theme.

Genesis 3:8-9 describes God walking in the Garden. Not seeing Adam and Eve, He calls out to them. Since the previous chapters emphasized God’s power, this scene should not really be seen as describing a limited god. The scene appears to describe a relationality between God and Man. God would go through the Garden in such a way that Man could join. The failure of Man to join on this occasion suggests that on previous occasions things were different.Previous to this passage, God is shown as one who creates, governs, and sets limits. Here, however, there is the implication of a social bond that exists beyond creator and ruler. There seems to be a companionship-type relationship, choosing to join together and go in the same direction together. Sharing the same path. It seems as if God sets the meeting not Adam and Eve, but as we can see, the walking together is voluntary not forced.

Genesis 3 describes the sin of Adam and Eve. It’s effect on the relationship with God is shown in Gen. 3:8-9. This time when God walks in the Garden, Adam and Even do not join, instead they hide. There is a breakdown in relationship. They are separate and not going in the same direction. There is now disagreement between God and Man. This seems to be the nature of sin… it tears apart our relationship with God (we soon see that Adam and Eve’s relationship is also strained). God walks and we do not join him but do our own thing.

In Genesis 3, we might presume that the writer is seeking to write an actual event, although written poetically. Presumably God chose a theophany to be with Adam and Even in a way that they can understand and engage with. In Genesis 5:21-24, Enoch is twice described as walking with God. Genesis 6:9, Noah was described as walking with God. It seems reasonable to assume that these are metaphoric usages of the idea of “walking with.” Enoch walked with God and was taken into heaven. Noah walked with God and was tasked to save the world from destruction. With Enoch, walking with God seems to emphasize companionship and holiness. With Noah, it seems to emphasize holiness and common direction.

Micah 6:8 describes the expectation that we “walk humbly with our God.” Humility describes more than an emotional state or attitude, but a position. God initiates the “walk” and allows us to join Him. By humbling, we are rejecting our own path, and allowing Him to choose the path. Further exposition on what is meant by “walking with” is seen in Deuteronomy 10:12-13. In this passage, walking with is linked with the idea that it is in “all His ways.” Thus, He is the guide of the way. The passage also connects this with loving God, serving God wholeheartedly, and obeying God, for our own good. So walking with Him is good for us.

In other places in the Old Testament, the idea of walking with God is given in a different way… of taking the path set by God. In these passages, the focus is less on the relationality, then the direction and guidance given by God for our benefit. Psalm 23 is a well-known passage talking about God’s role in leading us “in paths of righteousness.” Isaiah 42:16 emphasizes God’s role as a guide, determining to make the path clearer and easier for those who follow Him. It also emphasizes His determination to be reliable… not to forsake His people. Proverbs 3:5-6 also talks about the role of God to direct and guide the path that we should go, but emphasizes that we must choose to trust Him. We cannot walk with God without placing our full trust in Him.

There are a lot more passages that refer to this metaphor regarding our relationship with God, but I will stop here. Walking with God describes a holy companionship with God guiding us faithfully in the best way for us to God. God is relational but also our lord. We must humble ourselves, love, and obey Him, in choosing to faithfully go in the direction that He sets for us. That which breaks this form of relationship with God can be many things… but to dump it all into one bin, we can call it SIN.

Understand that this doesn’t sound much like Missions yet… but I believe it is foundational. We will look a bit more at some foundational things in the next. This looks at the New Testament and emphasize Christ‘s relationship in terms of walking with us.

On the Theme “Walking With”: a Missions Theology. Part 1

This is not fully thought out. I am thinking this through as I write. I feel that “Walking With” is a phrase that may serve as a unifying theme for a Missions Theology.

The expression “Walking With” has a number of implications:

1.  Relationship. “Walking With” implies some form of mutual relationship. A stalker may share a common path with the stalkee, same as two strangers may coincidentally and temporarily share a common path. Neither would be said to be walking with. Walking with implies some form of relationship. It may be a leader walking with a follower. It may be two companions.

2.  Agreement. As Amos 3:3 notes… two cannot walk together unless they agree. The relationship is by mutual agreement.

3.  Movement/Process: Walking implies not so much a state of being, as much as a process. Life and faith and mission are not so much a place or destination… but a path that they share and develop with.

4.  Direction:  Walking has direction… a path that one goes on. It could be a trail newly blazed, it may be a well-worn path… but it goes somewhere.

5.  Commonality of Place and Time. Walking with means that two or more share a place and time on the path. As such, the path has more than direction, but a NOW, as well as a PAST, and a FUTURE.

“Walking With” as a theological concept may be applied in several ways:

  • God walking with Man as His creation
  • Christ walking with us as His disciples
  • Us walking within the community as part of the church family
  • Us walking within the cultural context as joining in God’s mission to the world

While I am focusing on the last point… the others need to be developed as well or else Missions Theology would simply be a ghettoized system unconnected with a broader understanding of God, the Universe, and Everything. I hope to look at these four areas (at least) in the next posts.