I have been thinking lately about the saying, “If you’re going to talk the talk, you better walk the walk.”
The point of that phrase is to criticize those who “talk” about the gospel and yet fail to walk in the way of the gospel. Hypocrisy, of course, is a perennial problem.
But I am afraid some might hear in that phrase a downplaying of the importance of “talk.” In my experience, it appears that those who evangelize are generally seeking to walk worthy of the gospel. And the people seeking to walk the walk usually talk the talk as well.
Whenever I think of the relationship between “walk” and “talk,” I am reminded of the example of John the Baptist. Here was a prophet who foretold the coming of the Messiah in a way that captivated the people of Israel. His lifestyle (seriousness) matched his message (the kingdom is coming!).
First, John saw his own significance in light of Jesus’ identity. He knew who he was. He did not share personal thoughts about his life. He pointed people to Jesus. His entire life was oriented around Jesus, and that lifestyle made his proclamation of Jesus all the more powerful. The lesson for us is that our lives should be distinctively “Jesus-shaped” if we expect people to hear our words about Jesus.
Secondly, John the Baptist was humble. When he speaks about his unworthiness in stooping to untie the sandals of Jesus, he was expressing his lowly status. We need to follow John’s example and realize that we cannot talk about Jesus in a prideful way and expect to be heard. The most powerful evangelists are the most humble evangelists.
Third, John’s lifestyle backed up and enhanced his message. It didn’t detract from it. We need to think about our lives. When people see how we live, they should think, This person seriously believes in Jesus! Does our lifestyle prepare the way for us to share the gospel? Or is it an obstacle we have to get past?
I fear that we too often err in all three areas. We think of Jesus only in terms of what Jesus can do for us. We think of ourselves as being more spiritual than we really are. And we don’t witness to others because our life often doesn’t back up our talk.
Instead, our actions should prepare the way for our words. Our lives should give us credibility when we speak about the transforming power of the gospel. People ought to hear the gospel from our lips and see the gospel at work in our lives.
Walking the walk prepares the way for us to talk the talk. And unless we talk the talk, we really aren’t walking the walk.