When I was a child in Sunday School, I remember singing one of my favorite choruses called, “A Sermon in Shoes.” The lyrics went like this:
Do you know, Oh Christian, you’re a sermon in shoes?
Do you know, Oh Christian, you’re a sermon in shoes?
Jesus calls upon you, to spread the gospel news,
(1) So walk it, and talk it, a sermon in shoes.
(2) Live it, and give it, a sermon in shoes.
(3) Teach it, and preach it, a sermon in shoes.
(4) Know it, and show it, a sermon shoes.
(Ruth Harms Calkin)
The song is a reminder that where ever a Christian walks, he or she is expected to share the Gospel news to others. Whether it be by one’s actions, attitudes, or personal testimony, a Christian is always a sermon in shoes. It goes along with something that American evangelist Dwight L. Moody (1837-1899) once said: “The preaching that this world needs most is the sermons in shoes that are walking with Jesus Christ.”
Indeed, it’s only fitting that we are a sermon in shoes if we’re walking with Jesus. And speaking of fitting…
According to the New English Translation (NET), Ephesians 6:14 & 15 says, “Stand firm, therefore,…by fitting your feet with the preparation that comes from the good news of peace…”
The Apostle Paul was using the analogy of a Christian being a good soldier for Christ—“Clothe yourselves with the full armor of God….” (Eph. 6:11, 13). In his day, the typical soldier was equipped with a belt that protected one’s midsection, breastplate that protected the chest area, cleated shoes or sandals for firm footing, a shield for protecting the whole body, a helmet to protect one’s head, and, as you’d expect, a sword. Thus, in terms of being a soldier of Christ, the apostle speaks of “the belt of truth,” “the breastplate of righteousness,” “fitting your feet,” “the shield of faith,” “the helmet of salvation,” and “the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God,” (Eph. 6:13-17).
From these verses, we can conclude that being a sermon in shoes is part of being a good soldier of Christ. For one important feature of standing firm as a believer includes, “fitting our feet with the preparation that comes from the good news of peace.”
We can only be effective in our walk with Christ as long as we hold our ground concerning “the good news of God’s peace.” This involves the inner peace that transcends human comprehension and guards our own hearts and minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:7).
Peace of this kind takes “preparation” meaning, “readiness of mind.” Which begs a few important questions: Are you—like a good soldier or member of a winning team—all “psyched up” and mentally prepared to be a sermon in shoes? Additionally, what condition are the heels of your shoes? Are you so worn out in mind and body, like the heels of an old shoe, that you can’t really dig in your spiritual heels and resist the temptations that cause you to slip and stumble?
Along with preparation, think of the need for those shoes to be properly fitted. No good soldier would even think of going out to battle if the shoes or boots are too big or too small for his or her feet. It would be easier for the enemy to advance if all the soldiers were distracted with tired, aching feet. Neither can we imagine civilians in everyday life dealing well with this situation, either.
Naturally, shoes of any kind and in any walk of life that don’t fit properly are not going to feel very comfortable. It’s been said, “Nothing seems to last as long as a pair of shoes that doesn’t fit.” This is true no matter how fashionable the shoes. You can add all kinds of things—from heel pads to insoles—but if these accessories don’t help then what good use are those great looking shoes going to be? They’ll probably never leave the closet and see the light of day.
The same goes with being a sermon in shoes. If our feet are not properly fitted “with the preparation that comes from the good news of peace,” how far do you think our walk with Christ will get us? Therefore, we need to be ready, willing, and able to “spread the gospel news,” like the chorus says, and get “out of the closet” of our own comfort zone. And how can we be a light to the world if we don’t let our sermon in shoes shine out to others?
True, it takes commitment, courage, and compassion to be a sermon in shoes. The quip is, “Some people can talk Christianity by the yard but they can’t, or won’t, walk it by the inch.” But if we’re going to walk the walk as followers of Christ then we will put forth the effort that comes with it. After all, we do have some mighty big shoes to fill as “imitators of God,” (Eph. 5:1-2).
We’re glad to be a sermon in shoes in spite of the fact that some will ridicule and mock us as we’re stepping in the Light. And, admittedly, they might have a valid reason if we put our foot in our mouth along the way and make a slip or two of the tongue.
No one, by the way, likes a shoe if the tongue is all bunched up with your foot inside. Fix the tongue, and the walk is much more smooth and easy, literally and figuratively. We must be careful not to put our foot, with shoe and all , in our mouth simply because we can’t hold our tongue. By the way, James 3:1-12 addresses the issue of controlling the human tongue.
And then there’s another important point about being a sermon in shoes…
Did you ever complain to a friend about something negative another person said about you? Maybe you were accused of having a certain flaw or weakness. And your friend told you, “Well, if the shoe fits…!” Ouch! But after some soul-searching you realized maybe your friend was really being honest and you really do need to make some improvement. Well, what are friends for, anyway? A sermon in shoes will take things like that in stride, right?
And speaking of soul-searching, or in the matter of shoes, “sole-searching”…
I have a real old, worn out pair of running shoes that I use for mowing my lawn. Now, I use a push mower, not one of those riding mowers that hardly takes any sweat and muscle and strain. I’m talking about a push mower that requires much walking over rough, hilly, bumpy terrain.
And so you can imagine the beating my grass-stained, dried-mud-caked mowing shoes, with as many holes as Swiss cheese, has taken. I’ve duct taped them so many times in order to keep the soles on that they look like they’ve been through surgery after a bomb went off. Well, the other day, it finally happened…The duct tape wouldn’t even hold them. I lost the sole on each shoe before I had the lawn completely done. It took some “sole-searching” to find them hiding in the grass.
Losing those soles got me to thinking about something else we pronounce the same way. Only it’s spelled s-o-u-l of which Jesus spoke—the kind he said you could lose if you gained the whole world—in Matthew 16:24-28. He was talking about the seriousness of discipleship. And that includes being a sermon in shoes without getting all bogged down about profiting from the pleasures of the world. You can have everything the ungodly world can offer but what good is it if you can’t cash it in for an eternal reward (the change from a mortal soul to an immortal soul) when Jesus comes in his Kingdom?
Being a sermon in shoes is truly a challenge. It not only means telling the good news to others. It also means showing it through empathy for others without complaining about our own woes. As one person commented, “Some people who had no shoes have been known to complain until they met someone who had no feet.”
It’s like the saying usually credited as a Native American aphorism, “walk a mile in someone else’s moccasins.” Some say the words are actually derived from a poem originally titled, “Judge Softly,” retitled later, “Walk a Mile in His Moccasins, ” which was written by Mary T. Lathrop and published in 1895.
Whether you’re a sermon in moccasins or shoes, you still need to put yourself in the place of others to understand their feelings and experiences through the love of Christ. We will then be able to, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep,” (Romans 12:15). In so doing, others will be able to see what the Good News of God’s peace is all about—sort of like the arch support of a shoe. We all need support when the going gets rough (Ecclesiastes 4:12; 1 Thessalonians 5:14).
And yet, as much as we try to support others, we must be careful not to appear as a “goody two- shoes.” Support? Yes. But not because we think we’re any better than someone else. Being a good sermon in shoes is reminding ourselves that no one—not even me, myself, and I—is above another person as far as virtue is concerned. As we’re told in Romans 12:3, “Do not think more highly of yourself than you ought to think.”
And, as it says in Philippians 2:3, “Instead of being motivated by selfish ambition or vanity, each of you should, in humility, be moved to treat one another as more important than yourself,” (NET).
Shoes are, indeed, excellent objects for learning lessons on life. I’ve talked about heels, souls, tongues, the importance good fitting, comfortable shoes and support. But what about the shoe strings, and the eyelets or eyes? If we don’t keep our shoes tied tightly, we’re likely to trip and fall and get hurt. Good, strong shoe strings are, therefore, required.
In the same vein, to be a sermon in shoes, we will want to prevent tripping, falling, and getting hurt. Thus, we want to be tightly laced to our principles and beliefs that keep us safe and secure in the Lord. In so doing, we let our eyes (eyelets, get it?) see and discover what God would have us learn and do while he controls our heartstrings through faith—a distinct characteristic of one who is a sermon in shoes.
Sadly, there are persons without Christ who are walking around in need of a sermon in shoes. So we go about the business of “soul-saving.” Our passion for lost “souls” prompts us to make sure we take the Good News to them. To those who receive that Good News, we will be timely messengers who share the Word that brings peace, joy, and ultimately salvation in their walk of life. Like it says in Romans 10:15, “And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How timely is the arrival of those who proclaim the good news.’” (Compare Isaiah 52:7).
Good News to YOU!
P.S. Here is group of church children singing, “A Sermon in Shoes,” http://youtu.be/uJLsm5xVqb0