For four years I was an Assemblies of God minister and a monk with the Brothers and Sisters of Charity at the Little Portion Hermitage. This is an excerpt from my book Taking Off My Comfortable Clothes: Removing Religion to Find Relationship.
After I moved to the Little Portion Hermitage and made my three-year commitment to poverty, chastity, and obedience, I put on the clothing of a monk-a brown, one-piece hooded robe called a “habit.” That habit was a concrete reminder that the way I walked, worked and worshiped was about to change.
Having grown up in Southern California wearing either shorts or Levi’s most of the year, learning to walk in a long, dress-like garment that nearly touched the floor took some practice. John Michael gave me detailed instructions on how walk up and down stairs, get in and out of cars gracefully, and even ride a camel. Moreover, the way I carried myself did not go unnoticed by those I went to church with at Berryville First Assembly of God in Arkansas.
Not long after I left the community, our church had a ceremony for the Honor Stars – those girls around twelve years old who have completed the Missionettes program (Missionettes is the Christian version of the Girl Scouts.) They all came to church one night in long gowns, and had to walk up a couple of stairs in order to reach the platform. While I was standing in the back talking to one of the mothers, her daughter came up to me, and in a hushed tone said, “Jim, how do you walk up stairs in a long dress?” Without words, I showed her how to maneuver her dress modestly, and she imitated the feat perfectly, climbing onto the platform without a hitch. I’m still amused that she asked me and not her mother! The scene begs the question: Are people asking your advice on how to walk in Christ? It was obvious that this girl had never seen her mother in a floor-length gown, but she had seen me in something similar. Therefore, she sought the advice of one whose walk and behavior was something she needed to emulate. If people are not asking our advice in areas of our faith, we need to wonder if we are showing them enough of our life for them to want to imitate it.
1 John 2:6 says,
“Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.”
When we first become Christians, we may spend time asking “What would Jesus do?” because walking like Jesus is not something we are used to doing. When I first attempted to walk up a flight of stairs in my new habit, I had to think about my moves so that I didn’t fall on my face. But after a while walking like Jesus, like walking up stairs in a habit, becomes our first nature. Our spirit knows what Jesus would do and does it.
The Greek word for “walk” in 1 John 2:6 is peripateo, which means “a designation for conduct of life.” Peripatetic is a philosophy or the teaching method of Aristotle, who would teach while walking about the Lyceum in Athens. Therefore, a better translation of this passage might be, “Whoever claims to live in him must designate the conduct of his life as Jesus did.”
Are we conducting our lives as Jesus did, and by doing so, living a life that is worthy of imitation (1 Cor. 11:1)? A young girl sought my advice because she had seen me handle a situation she was about to encounter. Others have sought my advice because of the way they have heard me handle the Word of God. Is our walk leading people to seek our counsel on how to live for Christ? The hard question we should all ask ourselves is, “What am I teaching in the way I conduct my life?”