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By Marc Lloyd
August 14, 2023

There has been much talk in the church of "walking together" despite differences.

Obviously on some issues and in some ways that is good. We don't want a new church every time we disagree about the colour of the carpet. Churches can endlessly fracture over secondary matters, as the proliferation of denominations and congregations shows. But we must ask: walking together despite what differences? Walking in what direction? In what manner? What is the basis, purpose and mode of our unity, of our walking together?

The Bible

"Walking together" is not a biblical phrase as such. The nearest example comes in the question from the LORD's oracle against Israel in Amos 3:3, "Do two walk together unless they have agreed to do so?" Rather than suggesting an unconditional walking together, this verse points out that a measure of agreement is necessary if two parties are to walk together.

Of course it is not a problem for us to use an expression that is not itself found in the Bible. "The Trinity" is not a biblical phrase, for example, but it is a fully biblical doctrine. But when we think of "walking together", we would do well to attend first, however, to what the Bible actually says about "walking". And it says quite a lot. In the ESV, 341 verses use some form of the word "walk". Some translations obscure the walking language, speaking for example of a way of life.

The STEP Bible software (created by Tyndale House, Cambridge) tells me that הָלַךְ (ha.lakh) 'to go: walk' (H1980I) occurs 1585 x. The Greek word περιπατέω (peripateō) 'to walk' (G4043) to walk (around); to live, conduct one's life occurs 123 x. Many of these references are just to ordinary walking. It is easy to look up all the references.

Other texts could have been included here, but it is instructive to think about some of the key verses which speak of how believers ought to live using this metaphor of walking. I've sought to include all the main references briefly here, even though that means some repetition. Sometimes looking up the references in context would further enrich our vision of what goes together with the godly walking of the people of God, or not. The ringing emphasis on walking in obedience to God's commands is hard to miss and couldn't be more relevant for thinking about what it really means for the church to walk together in a way that is pleasing to him and is consistent with Scripture.

Old Testament

Enoch (Genesis 5:22, 24) and Noah are said to walk with God, Noah in blameless righteousness unique in his generation (6:9). Abraham says he has walked before God (24:40), as did Isaac according to Joseph (48:15).

The LORD tests the people to see if they will walk in his law or not (Exodus 16:4). God's laws and statues warn his people in the way in which they must walk (18:20).

God's people are not to walk in the statutes of the other nations but in the laws of the LORD (Leviticus 18:3-4, similarly 26:3). The LORD himself will walk amongst his people (26:12). If God's people walk contrary to him he will punish them and walk contrary to them (chapter 26, multiple times).

Walking with God is an oft repeated emphasis in Deuteronomy. The instructions, promises and warnings often overlap. God's people will know his blessing if they walk in all the ways the LORD has commanded them (5:33; 30:16). They are to speak of God's commands to their children as they walk by the way (6:7, similarly 11:19). They are to keep God's commandments by walking in his ways and fearing him (8:6), walking in love and service with all their heart and all their soul observing all his commands (10:12) and holding fast to the LORD their God (11:22), obeying his voice (13:4). God's people should resist a prophet or dreamer who tries to persuade them to leave the way the LORD commanded them to walk (13:5). Walking like this, they can expect to know God's blessing in the form of expanded territory (19:9). Because the Lord walks in the midst of their camp they must be holy, since God would turn away from them if he saw anything indecent (23:14). The people declare that the LORD is their God and that they will walking in his ways, keeping his statues, commands, and rules, obeying his voice (26:17). The Lord will establish them as a people holy to himself, as he has sworn, if they keep the commandments of the Lord their God and walk in his ways (28:9). Those who presume to walk in the stubbornness of their hearts can expect disaster (28:19).

The people walked in the wilderness for forty years because they did not obey God's voice (Joshua 5:6). They are told: "Only be very careful to observe the commandment and the law that Moses the servant of the Lord commanded you, to love the Lord your God, and to walk in all his ways and to keep his commandments and to cling to him and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul" (22:5).

God's people turned aside from the way their fathers walked in obedience to God's commands, not listening to their judges but whoring after other gods (Judges 2:17, see also v22).

Samuel speaks of how he has walked before the people (1 Samuel 12:2) yet his sons did not walk in his ways but turned aside after gain, taking bribes and perverting justice (1 Samuel 8:3, also v5).

The books of Kings and Chronicles frequently tell us that rulers walked in the ways of the LORD or in the ways of their ungodly predecessors, turning aside to the left or the right, to the ways of the idolatrous pagan nations.

Nehemiah rebukes the people for failing to do right: "Ought you not to walk in the fear of our God to prevent the taunts of the nations our enemies?" (5:9). The Israelites bind themselves with an oath to walk in God's Law that was given by Moses the servant of God, and to observe and do all the commandments of the Lord and his rules and his statutes (10:29).

The Blessed man does not walk in the counsel of the wicked (Psalm 1:1). He who walks blamelessly and does what is right and speaks truth in his heart may dwell in the LORD's sanctuary (15:2). Even though David walks through the valley of the shadow of death, he will fear no evil, for the LORD is with him and comforts him (23:4) Those who walk in integrity and trust the LORD without wavering look to him for vindication (26:1, similarly v11). The Psalmist walks in God's faithfulness (26:3). God will strike the heads of his enemies, the hairy crown of him who walks in his guilty ways. (68:21). The men of Ephraim did not keep God's covenant, but refused to walk according to his law (78:10). The LORD says, "Oh, that my people would listen to me, that Israel would walk in my ways!" (81:13). Those who have neither knowledge nor understanding, walk about in darkness (82:5). The Lord God is a sun and shield, bestowing favour and honour, withholding no good thing from those who walk uprightly (84:11). The Psalmist prays, "Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name (86:11). Blessed are the people who walk in the light of the LORD's face (89:15). The Psalmist pledges himself to walk with integrity (110:2). The one whose walk is blameless will minister to God (101:6) Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the Lord, doing no wrong (Psalm 119:1, 3; 128:1).

The son in Proverbs is not to walk in the way with sinners (1:5) but to walk in integrity (2:7). Wisdom will save from the ways of those who forsake the paths of uprightness to walk in the ways of darkness (2:13). The wise will walk in the way of the good and keep to the paths of the righteous (2:20), being secure and not stumbling (3:23). Guided in the way of wisdom and a straight path, they will walk unhampered and without stumbling (4:14), not walking in a wicked way (4:14). When you walk, your parents' teaching will lead you; when you lie down, they will watch over you; and when you awake, they will talk with you (6:22). Wisdom walks in the way of righteousness, in the paths of justice (8:20). We are exhorted: "Leave your simple ways and live, and walk in the way of insight" (9:6). "Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but he who makes his ways crooked will be found out" (10:9). "The righteous is delivered from trouble, and the wicked walks into it instead" (11:8). "Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm" (13:20). "Whoever walks in uprightness fears the Lord, but he who is devious in his ways despises him" (14:2). "Folly is a joy to him who lacks sense, but a man of understanding walks straight ahead" (15:21). "Better is a poor person who walks in his integrity than one who is crooked in speech and is a fool" (19:1). "The righteous who walks in his integrity-- blessed are his children after him!" (20:7). "Better is a poor man who walks in his integrity than a rich man who is crooked in his ways" (28:6). "Whoever walks in integrity will be delivered, but he who is crooked in his ways will suddenly fall" (28:18). "Whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered" (28:26).

"The wise person has his eyes in his head, but the fool walks in darkness" (Ecclesiastes 2:14). The young man is to walk in the ways of his heart and the sight of his eyes, knowing that God will being him into judgement (11:9).

According to Isaiah, "many peoples shall come, and say: "Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths." For out of Zion shall go forth the law and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem" (2:3). He urges: "O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord" (2:5). The daughter of Zion are denounced for their haughty walk etc. (3:16). The LORD warns Isaiah not to walk in the way of this people (8:11). "The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone." (9:2) When God's people turn from his ways, they shall hear a word behind them, saying, "This is the way, walk in it" (30:21). The one who walks righteously can dwell with the consuming fire (33:15). The Way of Holiness shall belong to those who walk on the way and the unclean shall not pass over it. The redeemed shall walk there (35:8-9). Hezekiah appeals to God on the basis of how he has walked before the LORD in faithfulness (38:3). God's people will walk and not grow faint (40:31). The LORD handed Israel over because they would not walk in his ways or obey his law (42:24). God will be with his people when they walk through fire (43:2). Those we walk in darkness are urged to fear and obey God, trusting in his name and relying upon him (50:10). "they rest in their beds who walk in their uprightness" (57:2). The LORD appeals all the day to a rebellious people, who walk in a way that is not good, following their own devices (65:2).

We are to "ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls. But they said, 'We will not walk in it.'" (Jeremiah 6:16). God commanded: 'Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be my people. And walk in all the way that I command you, that it may be well with you.' But they did not obey or incline their ear but walked in their own counsels and the stubbornness of their evil hearts, and went backward and not forward (7:23-24). The Lord says the land has been ruined: "Because they have forsaken my law that I set before them, and have not obeyed my voice or walked in accord with it" (9:13). Jeremiah realises "the way of man is not in himself, that it is not in man who walks to direct his steps (10:23). God's people did not obey or incline their ear but everyone walked in the stubbornness of his evil heart and so they brought the curses of the covenant upon themselves (11:8). God's people stumble and walk off from the ancient highway to side roads (18:15). The prophets walk in lies so that all the evildoers all have become like Sodom to God, and its inhabitants like Gomorrah (23:14). God's people will face desolation if they do not walk in his law (26:4, see also 32:23; 44:10, 23).

Ezekiel indicts Jerusalem for rebelling against God's rules by doing wickedness more than the nations, not walking in his statutes (5:7-8, similarly 11:12). God promised his returned people a renewed heart that they may walk in his statutes and keep my rules and obey them (11:20). Jerusalem walked in the ways of Sodom and became more corrupt than her and the other depraved cities (16:47). The righteous person who walks in God's statutes, and keeps his rules by acting faithfully shall live (18:9) avoiding evil (v17). The wilderness generation did not walk in God's statutes and experienced his wrath, acting as a warning to be careful how we walk (20:13, 16, 18, 19, 20). The repentant person who walks in the statutes of life, not doing injustice, shall surely live (33:15). The promised Spirit within us will cause us to walk in God's statutes and be careful to obey my rules. (36:27). Under the promised Davidic king, the people shall walk in God's rules and be careful to obey his statutes (37:24)

Nebuchadnezzar learns that those who walk in pride God is able to humble (Daniel 4:37). Daniel pays about the failure to obey the voice of the Lord our God by walking in his laws (9:10).

In Hosea, the LORD speaks of teaching the child Israel/Ephraim to walk (11:3). Judah still walks with God and is faithful to the Holy One (11:12, ESV though contrast NIV). The wise and discerning will understand that the ways of the Lord are right, and the upright walk in them, but transgressors stumble in them (14:9).

Through Amos, the LORD say the people of Judah have rejected the law of the Lord, and have not kept his statutes, but their lies have led them astray, those after which their fathers walked (2:4). Amos asks the searching question: "Do two walk together, unless they have agreed to meet?" (3:3).

The Lord declares that the people shall not walk haughtily because he is bringing a time of disaster on them (Micha 2:3). The LORD asks of Jacob: "Do not my words do good to him who walks uprightly?" (2:7) Many nations shall come and request that the LORD may teach them his ways and that they may walk in his paths (4:2). They will say: "For all the peoples walk each in the name of its god, but we will walk in the name of the Lord our God forever and ever" (4:5). The LORD requires human beings to do justice, and to love kindness and to walk humbly with God (6:8).

Zephaniah warns that the great day of the LORD will bring distress on mankind, so that they shall walk like the blind, because they have sinned against the Lord (1:17).

God says to Joshua the High Priest: "If you will walk in my ways and keep my charge, then you shall rule my house and have charge of my courts, and I will give you the right of access among those who are standing here." (Zechariah 3:7). God promises to his people: "I will make them strong in the Lord, and they shall walk in his name" (10:12).

The LORD says of Levi: "True instruction was in his mouth, and no wrong was found on his lips. He walked with me in peace and uprightness, and he turned many from iniquity" (Malachi 2:6).

New Testament

Although the word "walking" is not always used, it is worth mentioning the picture of following Jesus given in the gospels. While walking by the Sea of Galilee, Jesus calls his disciples to follow him (Matthew 4:18). Jesus is himself The Way (John 14:6) and he calls the disciples like him to go the way of the cross (Matthew 16:24). Mark 10:32 shows us Jesus and his disciples on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them. "And they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid." The long section of Luke's Gospel where Jesus heads towards Jerusalem makes this especially vivid (9:51, note also the language of walking and following in v57-62).

The Pharisees and the scribes ask Jesus why his disciples do not walk according to the tradition of the elders in the matter of ceremonial washing (Mark 7:5).

Zechariah and Elizabeth were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord (Luke 1:6).

Jesus is the light and his followers will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life (John 8:12, see also 11:9-10; 12:35)

Walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, the early church multiplied (Acts 9:31). In past generations God allowed all the nations to walk in their own ways but he has not left himself with out testimony (14:16).

Abraham is the father of all who walk in the footsteps of the faith that he had before he was circumcised (Romans 4:12). We were buried with Christ by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life (6:4). We walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit (8:4). Paul urges: "Let us walk properly as in the daytime not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality not in quarrelling and jealousy" (13:13-14). We must walk in love, considering the weaker brother (14:15).

We walk by faith, not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7). We must separate from idols since we are the temple of the living God; as God said, "I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people" (6:16). Paul does not walk according to the flesh, as some wrongly think (10:2). He says: "Though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh" (v3).

Paul says: "walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh" (Galatians 5:16). He prays for peace and mercy for all who walk according to this rule of the cross and the new creation (6:16).

The Ephesians once walked in sin, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience (2:2). But now we are God's workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them (2:10). Paul urges us to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called (4:1). We must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds (4:17). We are to walk in love as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God (5:2). We are to walk as children of light and not of darkness (5:8) being careful how you walk, not as unwise but as wise (5:15).

We are to keep our eyes on those who walk according to the example Paul has given us (Philippians 3:17). Many walk as enemies of the cross of Christ (3:18).

Paul prays that the Colossians will 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 (1:10). Just as we received Christ Jesus the Lord, we are to walk in him (2:6). The Colossians used to walk in sinful ways, including, but not limited to, sexual immorality, impurity, lust and evil desires, which they are now to put to death (3:7). They are to walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time (4:5).

Paul charges the Thessalonians to walk in a manner worthy of God who calls them into his kingdom and glory (1 Thessalonians 2:12). Believers are to follow what they received from Paul walking as they ought so as to please God (4:1). The quiet life of work is so that believers may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one (4:12). The Thessalonians are commanded to keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that they received from Paul (2 Thessalonians 3:6). Some among the church walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies (3:11).

1 John argues that if we say we have fellowship with God while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth (1:6). "But if we walk in the light as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin" (v7). Whoever says he abides in Jesus ought to walk in the same way in which he walked (2:6). Whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes (2:11).

The Elder, John, says to the chosen lady: "I rejoiced greatly to find some of your children walking in the truth, just as we were commanded by the Father" (2 John 4). "This is love, that we walk according to God's commandments; this is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, so that you should walk in it" (v6).

John rejoices that Gaius is walking in the truth (3 John 3). He goes on: "I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth" (v4).

Jude pronounces a woe on the dreamers who walked in the way of Cain and abandoned themselves for the sake of gain to Balaam's error and perished in Korah's rebellion (v11).

A few in Sardis, who have not soiled their garments, will walk with Christ in white, for they are worthy (Revelation 3:4). The nations will walk by the light of the Lamb, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into the heavenly city (21:24)


More could be said about biblical metaphors connected to walking such a journey/pilgrimage or running the race. But even a relatively simple word study reminds us that unity is not the only biblical value. Divorced from other scriptural considerations, unity cannot be made the sole or ultimate aim of the Christian church.

Of course, we want to walk together as Christians much as we can, but it is precisely in the way to which God's word calls us that we must walk. If some people walk away from the gospel or the teaching of Scripture, obviously we must stick with Jesus and not go off with them. We seek the way of wisdom, not of folly, and of fellowship with light, not darkness. The Bible makes it clear that the priority is to walk faithfully in God's ways, by his grace, neither turning aside to the left nor to the right, even if broadening our understanding of the way might be claimed to be the best thing to do for the sake of "walking together". We must walk together humbly and in love as far as possible, but above all we must walk with Jesus before God according to his word. Many Bible texts clearly show us the way.

The Rev. Marc Lloyd is the Rector of Warbleton, Bodle Street Green & Dallington and Rural Dean of Dallington in the Diocese of Chichester, UK. He is also the book reviews editor of The Global Anglican, Church Society's theological journal.

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