in our community group study, we have been delving into the realities and complexities and vagaries of the christian life. from the theological to the practical. i am a fairly black-and-white person, but when it comes to how we do this thing called christian life, sojourning together toward heaven, there are some areas that aren’t as easy as the textbook sunday school answer. and even when the answer is that easy, it isn’t always prudent to toss that out as a response. you know, like when a friend is dealing with MAJOR issues and really needs a shoulder to cry on. someone to trust. someone to listen. that isn’t the time to just give them chapter and verse. it requires tact. grace. kindness. discernment. YES, point them to scripture. YES, point them to christ. YES, speak truth to them. but be real. be a comfort. love them. wade into it with them. let them be vulnerable. do not judge. do not be quick to answer. be slow to speak. be willing to listen and hear their heart. and be ready to speak the truth IN LOVE when the moment is right. and let the truth do the cutting and burning and molding. you, you bring the love.
as i have been wrestling with some weighty topics in class and in my community, there have been times when God has pointed me to verses about being a person of patience, mercy, grace. but he has also been speaking to me about this idea of fleeing. there are numerous occasions in scripture where Jesus commands us to flee. he even instructs us that if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away (matthew 5:30). that’s kind of severe. but it is what we must be willing to do. better to lose a limb that lose our life. some sins are so strong and so dangerous that you simply cannot mess around with them. like a cancer. or a ferocious creature. you can’t tangle with such a beast and expect to win, to emerge unscathed. some forces are too risky. you need to cut it out in order to survive. you need to flee.
and yes, we have power over sin. the power and victory of Christ’s death and resurrection is at work within us. we can have confidence in the work of the Spirit. but that doesn’t mean that we should trifle with sin. we shouldn’t tow the line. dabble. or even, try to stick it out and fight. sometimes, fighting means fleeing. sometimes we are commanded to withstand. to endure. but sometimes, we are commanded to turn. to run. we must always respect the power and deceptiveness of sin. because sin paired with our depravity can mean disaster for us.
and when God tells us to flee, he means it. we don’t stroll, amble, lope, meander from sin. we sprint. fleeing involves effort. it involves straining. it involves speed. it involves pivoting, turning away from the path we were on and going in another direction entirely. it involves drastic changes. sacrifices. you flee when you need to find and experience safety from a threat. you flee when it is too dangerous to remain where you are, when standing still would put you in mortal peril. the mature christian knows when it is time to hightail it out of there.
we are to flee youthful passions, self-indulgence and selfish ambition and the other passions and excesses of youth (2 timothy 2:22). we are to flee materialism, the desire to be rich and to be known and respected for what we have accumulated (1 timothy 6:9-11). we are to flee from sexual immorality, flee at the first hint of sexual sin (1 corinthians 6:18). we are to flee from idolatry (1 corinthians 10:14).
okay, but what about that verse about resist the devil and he will flee from us (james 4:7)? we are the victorious ones, right? we have the power of Christ! shouldn’t we just stand our ground and make the devil be the one to move? yes, there are times for that. but that verse also says that we are to submit ourselves to God. sometimes that submission involves standing firm and sometimes it involves running fiercely. we need to be tapped into the power at work within us while being keenly aware of the powers at work around us. sin is something dangerous to the soul. we are never to treat it cavalierly. it is not something that we come to terms with or negotiate with. we aren’t to give satan a foothold. we do not associate with it. we do not linger in its presence. we get as far away from it as possible as quickly as possible.
we don’t just flail and run every which way, we run with purpose. we pursue godliness. we run toward something, we don’t just run away from something. we flee a vice and we pursue a virtue.
we pursue righteousness. we pursue godliness. we pursue faith. we pursue love. we pursue steadfastness. we pursue gentleness. as stott says: “this is the double duty of christians. we are both to run away from spiritual danger and to run after spiritual good, both to flee from the one in order to escape it and to pursue the other in order to attain it. thus, we are to deny ourselves and to follow Christ. we are to put off what belongs to our old life and to put on what belongs to our new life. we are to put to death our earthly members and to set our minds on heavenly things. we are to crucify the flesh and to walk in the Spirit. it is the ruthless rejection of the one in combination with the relentless pursuit of the other which scripture enjoins upon us as the secret of holiness.”
Soli Deo Gloria. Coram Deo.