This is how we know we are in him: whoever claims to live in him must walk as Yeshua did. 1 John 2:5-6 (NIV)
Walk – It seems pretty clear, doesn’t it? John says that if we claim to be in Christ, we must walk as He did. The Greek verb, peripateo, is a nice Hebrew idiom translated into Greek. In Hebrew, it would be halach, used figuratively to express a way of life. Even today the Jewish community uses the term halachah to describe rules for living. So, John is merely telling us that Jesus observed certain halachah, and we need to do the same.
Ah, now you know what’s coming. What were Jesus’ rules for living? If you want to claim to be His follower, then you need to follow Him. Apparently John didn’t think that following meant sort of imitating the general style of life that Jesus might have adopted in the modern world. Apparently John was not concerned about being relevant to the culture. John was concerned about particular and specific patterns of obedience. He tells us that the claim to be a disciple will manifest itself in our lives because we will observe the same things that Jesus observed. Shall we make a list?
Go read the Gospels again. Each time you see Jesus displaying a behavior, ask yourself if that action is also present in your life. Don’t spiritualize it! John is not suggesting that walking means traveling in generally the same direction. John is saying that what Jesus did, we must do. So, we could start with Jesus’ actions with regard to worship. Oops! Maybe we better skip that one since it was Jesus’ practice to go to a synagogue and participate in a worship service that had its roots in the tabernacle and the temple. Maybe we should start with His actions in the community. Ah, maybe not. It looks as if Jesus was constantly putting others before His own needs. It looks as if He acted without regard to personal concern. It looks like He embraced all genders and all ethnic varieties and all enemies as equal. Let’s move on. Maybe we could just have a ham sandwich and a soda and think about all this. Oh, that doesn’t work either. Jesus was kosher. Goodbye shrimp cocktails.
Maybe John was wrong. Maybe he forgot about grace. Under grace, we don’t have to pay attention to halak, do we? After all, we’re free. We can worship God anyway we want, can’t we? We can live any kind of life we want, as long as it’s morally correct, right? We don’t have to be Jewish. Just because John and Paul and James and Matthew and a bunch of other first century disciples actually did what Jesus did doesn’t mean we have to, does it?
Do you ever wonder why we systematically filter out the obvious implications of what the New Testament authors say in favor of a lifestyle that accommodates contemporary culture? Do you ever wonder why we elevate the principle of love beyond the acts of obedience? Do you ever wonder why none of the writers of the New Testament do the same thing? They seem to think that the way Jesus walked is the way we should walk, but what do they know? They didn’t have to deal with the pressures we face, did they? Weren’t their lives a lot easier? After all, it was only life and death for them. They didn’t have to commute.
Topical Index: Obedience