In the past few months, I have been reading and writing through the Book of Matthew. With each text, I find myself pondering how I and we can actually embody and live these passages out in our daily lives. It has been an interesting and challenging process, gradually forcing me to internalize the reality Christ is presenting and, I hope, form the character of Christ in me.
But not until just recently did I discover this discipline has a name: orthopraxy. Orthopraxy is the discipline of actively obeying the Scriptures we are actually reading.
In congregational contexts, we talk a lot about obedience, but much of the time I sense we’re doing so with an abstract vagueness. Many generalized calls for obedience aren’t always clear about what we should be specifically obeying. Orthopraxy pulls us into specifics. No longer are we generally reading our daily Bible plan; we’re assimilating Christ’s character. The preacher is no longer just delivering a message; the text is becoming our task. Spiritual thoughts are now not just for pondering, but personifying. Orthopraxy holds up Scripture as life that must be lived.
For example, if you were specifically reading through Matthew 5:21-26, the discipline of orthopraxy might challenge you to actually take time to sort through and address anger issues you might have in general or towards specific people or situations. The process could be an opportunity to filter all those emotions, issues, past memories, and “if I could have my way” fantasies through the holy character of Christ, prayerfully conforming to a patient peacefulness rooted in him. This process could also be an opportunity to reconcile wounded relationships and experience the healing of God’s holiness, or attempt to create Christ-glorifying peace between conflicting parties. Ultimately the discipline of orthopraxy turns passages into projects and patterns for living in order that we may cultivate and give witness to the character of Christ in us.
The addition of this new word to my vocabulary has become to me something of a hiking pole, giving me balance or leverage to help lift my frame into the path where God’s righteous character is lived out. I hope this word might serve like your own walking stick as we believers strive daily to keep in step with Jesus upon the way of his Word.