Twice this past year, I followed on Facebook as friends walked what is called the “Camino the Santiago,” or “Way of St. James,” in Spain. One of them went to high school at the same time I did. The other is a Presbyterian pastor in Huntsville, Alabama. Ever since I saw the movie, The Way, I’ve loved the Camino and wanted to walk it.  For centuries, Christian pilgrims have walked, among other routes, from southern France, across the Pyrenees into Spain, and on to the city of Compostela, in which the Apostle St. James is reputed to be buried.
Along one of the routes there is an old Roman road that winds down the side of a mountain to a ravine where it crosses an old Roman bridge. Then, the road winds up the other side of the mountain. Over centuries, thousands of people, including hundreds of thousands of Christian pilgrims, have walked that narrow path on their way to the grave of St. James. Centuries of pilgrim have worn the path deep into dirt and stone.
Our lives are a kind of pilgrimage from birth to death, and the paths we choose to take in life profoundly impact who we become by the end of the journey.
The Path of Wise Love
The apostle Paul was a learned rabbi and member of the Jewish ruling council before his conversion. He studied under the Rabbi Gamaliel, and was familiar with the Old Testament—as familiar as any human being could possibly be. He was familiar with the wisdom literature of the Old Testament. He was intimately aware of the way in which the notion of human life as a journey in which we human beings must choose the path we will take—the path of wisdom or the path of foolishness, the path of righteousness or the path of wickedness, the path of life or the path of death, the path of light or the path of darkness (see, Proverbs 1:20-22; 27,32;2:7; 12-13; 4:18-19; 9:13-18). 
This is important because in today’s text Paul uses this same imagery to talk about the Christian life. Our text is from Ephesians 5 beginning with verse 1. Hear the word of God as it comes to us from the Apostle Paul in the book of Ephesians:
Therefore, be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not become partners with them; for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says,
“Awake, O sleeper,
and arise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.”
Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ (Ephesians 5:1-21).
Let us Pray: God of Light in Whom there is no darkness, come now and enlighten us and show us your ways. Allow us to know you more clearly, love you more dearly, and follow you more nearly. In Jesus Name, Amen.
It is All About Wisdom and Love
This sermon could be summed up in a single quote from today’s text: Therefore, be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God (Eph. 5:1-2). In the end, the Christian life is about following Jesus and developing a way of life patterned on the life of Jesus. If we can be more or less pattern our lives after Jesus, if we can walk through life the way Jesus walked through life, then we are equipped disciples.
Christian life can be overwhelming. We go to church we after week, we hear sermon after sermon, we go to Bible study after Bible study, we read passages after passage, we have quiet time after quiet time—we learn all this information. We learn about all the wonderful things Jesus did and all the wonderful things Paul did and all the wonderful things the great heroes of the faith in the Old Testament did, and we think to ourselves, “Its hopeless!”
In First John, there are two descriptions of God: First, “God is light and in him there is no darkness” (John 1:6). Second, “Anyone who does not love does not know God for God is love” (I John 4:8). In the end, the fundamental principles of Christian life are simple: Live wisely and unselfishly love one another along the way. The problems of human life are complex. The consequences of bad decisions can be enormous. The solution, it turns out, is not all that difficult to understand. It is just incredibly hard to do! We just have love as Jesus loved and be wise. Jesus was loving, but he was also wise. He was wise in what he said, in what he did, and in who he trusted. 
Love and Purity: Two Sides of the Same Coin
In recent years, it’s been interesting to watch Christian pastors dance around the subject of moral purity. It’s easy to preach about Grace. It’s more difficult to preach about our Response to what God has done in our lives. It is the founding principle of Christian life that God loves us unconditionally and saves us by faith and not as a result of anything we do (Ephesians 2:8-9). This is not the same as saying God doesn’t care what we do. Jesus, when he was on earth, constantly critiqued the silly rules of the Pharisees. But, he never indicated for a second that the moral law did not matter. In fact, he said things like, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them” (Matthew 5:17).
When we say Christians should live wisely and love one another and other people, we are not saying that His love is something different from His wisdom or that morality is separated from Faith, or anything of the sort. Just as God is both wisdom and love at the same time, so also the Christian life is a wise life of moral purity and grace. Love and purity, faith and morality, are two sides of the same coin. If we are filled with the Spirit of God, which is the Spirit of Jesus, then in our day-to-day lives, we will live as God wants us to live, which is as Jesus lived. God is love and God is light, and there is no ultimate discontinuity between the two.
In researching the sermon this week, I found the following quote from George McDonald, who had a great impact on C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkein:
Love loves into purity. Love has always in view the absolute loveliness of that which it beholds. Where loveliness is incomplete … it spends itself to make more lovely that it may love the more; it strives for perfection. 
There is no greater gift we can give our society than to simply live out our Christian faith as best we can in our ordinary, day-to-day lives and try to resist the pressures of our society to follow our natural desires for position, power, pleasure and plenty to their ultimate end.
Walking the Walk
This gets us back to the central metaphor of today’s text. Paul urges us to walk as Children of God, to walk in the Love of God, to walk in the Light of God, and to pay close attention to our walk. As I mentioned at the beginning, in the Old Testament life is often analogized to a journey, and we have to choose the path we will take.
One of my favorite poems is by the American poet Robert Frost:
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference. 
It makes al the difference what path we take in life. The earliest name for the Christian movement was “the people of the Way” (Acts 9:2; 11:26). In the Old Testament, those who followed the way of the Law, the Prophets, and the Wisdom writers, followed the way of Moses.
In the new Testament, those who followed Jesus and lived according to his teachings were followers of the Way of Christ. This new way was not a way of obedience to rules, though there is a moral law and there are are rules; it is a way of life patterned after the One who lived and died for our sins and to restore and renew his followers in the image of God. 
The One Great Sign
Jesus encouraged his followers to love one another as the sign that their preaching and Way of Life were true and right when he told them to “love one another,” and in the same passage told them that the way the world would know that his teachings were true and right would be because of the love his disciples have for one another (John 14:33-35).
In the first two centuries of the Christian movement, many segments of Roman society, including many of the aristocracy and ruling class, were hostile to Christianity. Nevertheless, Roman society took notice of the fact that Christians loved each other with a sacrificial love unknown them. The Christian apologist Tertullian reported that the Romans would proclaim, “Those Christians, how they love one another.” 
Our society will also take notice if we love each other as Christ first loved us, and reach out into our world to share that same wise love with others as we experience it in our own lives.
This gets us to the conclusion of our text today, where Paul tells us that truth and morality blend into songs of beauty and health. He urges is to sing songs and hymns and spiritual songs making melody with our hearts–for the heart is the seat of our goodness and of our search for truth (Ephesians 5:19-20). It is out of a heart transformed by love that such songs emerge.
Today, we are going to close with an old praise chorus, “They will Know We are Christians by our Love” because it states the basic truth of Christian faith and the best way we can reach out as we are sent into the world. 
The first line and chorus goes like this:
We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord.
We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord.
And we pray that all unity, may one day be restored.
And they’ll know we are Christians,
By our love, by our love.
Yes, they’ll know we are Christians by our love
Copyright 2018, G. Christopher Scruggs, All Rights Reserved
 The Way, dir. writ. prod. Emilio Estavez, starring Martin Sheen (2010). In the summer of 2015, I waked a one week version of the Camino, during which I saw the old Roman road mentioned.
 This section is based on G. Christopher Scruggs, Path of Life: The Way of Wisdom for Christ Followers (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2014).
 In Matthew and Luke Jesus says, “one greater than Solomon” is among them (Matthew 12: 42; Luke 11:31). In John, we are told that Jesus did not trust himself to certain people because he “knew what was in them” (John 2:25). Jesus was no fool. In fact, he embodied a wisdom greater than human wisdom (I Cor. 1:18-25).
 In John, Jesus says: “And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil” (John 3:19; see also John 14.) In John 13:23-24, Jesus says, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me.”
 George McDonald, https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/535735-love-loves-unto-purity-love-has-ever-in-view-the (Downloaded July 14, 2018).
 Robert Frost, “The Road not Taken” from Collected Poems of Robert Frost (Dover Publications, 1997). Every person should own a copy of his poetry.
 This is the One of whom John said, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” John 1:1-5).
 See, History of the Christian Church, “Love without Condition” (http://earlychurch.com/unconditional-love.php downloaded July 12, 2018); Tertullian, Against Heresies Chapter 39 (n.wikiquote.org/wiki/Tertullian, downloaded July 12, 2018).
 Peter Stoltes, They Will Know We Are Christians By our Love” (1966, Lorenze Corp). Stoltes wrote the hymn “They’ll Know We Are Christians by Our Love” while a parish priest at St. Brendan’s on the South Side of Chicago. At the time, he led a youth choir and was looking for an appropriate song for a series of ecumenical, interracial events. When he couldn’t find such a song, he wrote the now-famous hymn in a single day.