Fight or Flight
“When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another.” (Jesus in Matthew 10:23)
In light of the Kyle Rittenhouse trial, I’ve been thinking about the scenarios in which one would choose to take a stand, and where one should choose to flee. This is not an exact science, and Christians are not given a moral directive for every situation. Rather, after the resurrection of Jesus, they were told to “wait in Jerusalem” until they received the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:4-5), then they went out boldly and preached the Gospel of Salvation and lived out the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20). They did this in seasons of prosperity and cities where they encountered difficulty. The apostle Paul is a great example of one who had to flee the persecution of one city, only to move on to the next one along the coast and continue preaching and church-planting discipleship!
To quote General Oliver Smith, “We're not retreating, we're just advancing in a different direction”. It is encouraging to see the Early Church take a bold stance of obedience, even from an apparent position of weakness. They were in the minority, and had many enemies, yet took the approach of “spiritual guerrilla warfare”, planting house churches in every major city of the Roman Empire. Very likely they thought that Jesus would return triumphantly in their lifetime, and still they took risks that would put many of to shame today. To quote Hebrews 10:34, “You sympathized with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions.” They did it! They brought the gospel to Judea, Samaria, and in much of their perception, “to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). It took about 300 years for Christianity to topple Rome (chipping at its foundations in every city), and 500 years later to “civilize” Europe with the values which could only find its roots in our scriptures!
I believe the Early Church had this approach in obedience to the Great Commission: The short-term view of “Live as if Christ will return any day”, AND the long-term view of “Live as if the spirituality of your children & grandchildren depended on it”! That our goal should be same as that of Isaiah 11:9 and Habakkuk 2:14, “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.” If that is our vision as well, maybe we should take on the perspective of the Early Church. Who knows? Maybe it would help us to see ourselves as being IN the EARLY Church! Though the world grows darker throughout, we ARE seeing Christianity GROW on all the continents with the exceptions of North America and possibly Europe! A certain eschatological perspective, predominantly in the West, and in the last 200 years, has the Church essentially “losing” in its commission and being rescued out of its mandate to reach the world. Regardless of how it plays out in God’s Plan, we are to do battle against the forces of darkness as if the victory has already been won, and our part of society has yet to realize it! God IS winning in amazing ways and through apparent setbacks.
The battle in our state regarding church lockdowns would look much different (perhaps like a couple other states in our nation), if our governor and state attorney general had not been met with considerable opposition in the Senate, and lost a court case against two churches. But should our circumstances ever get to the place when the “freedom of worship” looks drastically different, how are we to prepare in doing battle? We are to live and prepare as if we will have future spiritual descendants – even as we stand on the shoulders of thousands who have paved the way for us to worship as we do!
It’s exciting to think that as long as I invest my “Talent” in God’s Kingdom, rather than bury it, He is faithful to multiply it! I may potentially be a spiritual mentor/ancestor for hundreds/thousands of younger believers, with the immediate connection being what I do with my own children!
I confess, as a fairly new parent, or being “thrown into the experience”, I have been fairly cautious in my risk-taking with them. Sometimes boys need to learn their lessons through visual scars, and falling out of trees. Sometimes girls need to learn what it means to be socially rejected through smaller mistakes when they’re young. Wrapping my kids in bubble-wrap may protect them for a time… until he/she learns the hard way and bleeds more profusely as an adult. We need train them up in masculine & feminine spiritual toughness, recognizing and honoring each others’ uniqueness by God’s Design.
We train ourselves and them up to do battle: “The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. 5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:4-5) We train ourselves to take reasonable risks, knowing that our souls and future are secure in Christ! When we flee, it is not to our “Unabomber cabin”, but to a place to refresh, regroup, and recommit! We must continue to fight. We must include ourselves in that “Great Cloud of Witnesses” (Hebrews 12:1).
We “must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him… It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns.” (Matthew 24:44, 46)