Is it ever okay to run away?

 What should Christians do when they face opposition and persecution? Well, it’s obvious isn’t it? Christians are to persevere, to stand their ground and to suffer.  Paul talks about how we learn endurance and faith in suffering whilst Peter tells slaves that it is a good thing to suffer for doing good. So when persecution and trials come, the right thing to do is to stick out surely?

Not always:

23 When you are persecuted in one town, flee to the next.[1]

According to Jesus, sometimes the right thing to do is run away, when gentle as doves sheep face danger, sometimes they need the wisdom of serpents to get them clear of trouble. This is good news for Christians who have fled persecution and sought asylum.  Whenever I talk and pray with an asylum seeker, we talk about how there is a real possibility that God might ask them to return to face their persecutors. If they do, then we trust God to give them the grace to do so. However, that doesn’t mean it was wrong of them to run or of other believers to choose to stay. They had to use wisdom.

During the reformation, there were plenty of men and women who were martyred for their faith in Christ and discovery of the Gospel of Grace. However, others made different choices. John Calvin’s friends ensured he was brought safely to Geneva where he could work on his now famous and much-loved Institutes of the Christian Religion. If he had not got to safety we would have missed his doctrine and his Bible lectures now written up as invaluable commentaries. Similarly, Martin Luther advised that it was okay for people to flee from the plague.

So, when should I run? Here are some thoughts

  1. When I am concerned about the well-being of my family -the physical, emotional or spiritual safety of my wife and/or my children.
  2. When staying may send a false message about the safety of a place and encourage other vulnerable people to stay because they cannot see the danger.
  3. When God is opening up new opportunities to serve him. In that case it is not just that I am running from something, I’m also going to something.

There will be times ahead when we will metaphorically run. We will choose not to die on a particular hill recognising that some debate is a fight to walk away from at the moment. There will be times when we make decisions about coronavirus that will put the safety and well being of people first and not take risks. There may be a time when persecution will come to our cities and we will have to choose to stay or flee.  Either option may well be right and if such a time comes we should be careful not to judge or reject those who took a different option.

The important thing is that whatever decision we make, we should trust God to be present wherever we are and we should be motivated in all our decisions by a concern for his glory.

[1] Matthew 10:23

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