When you are outgunned, and outmanned, there are only four options. The first is to fight it out to the death, taking as many of the enemy with you as possible. The second option is to surrender, or sue for peace. The third option is to kill yourself to avoid capture and possible torture. The fourth option is to retreat, slip away and live to fight another day.
When it comes to winning the battle for purity, the Scriptures are clear. When the threat is from the world and emanates from our geographical location, we are to flee from that location: RETREAT.
Joseph was a young man, late teens, held in captivity in a foreign land. He was a slave. He was also handsome in face and form. His master’s wife literally had the “hots” for Joseph and sexually propositioned him. It could be scenes from The Cougar. Joseph reminded her that she was married. Joseph reminded her that he worked for his Master, the cougar’s husband and that there was inherent trust placed in Joseph. Then Joseph said, “How could I do this great sin against God?” Every day this woman flirted with and propositioned Joseph. One day, when the other workers were not present, she actually grabbed Joseph, trying to force him to have sex with her. Joseph ran out of the house, leaving his garment, keeping his character unblemished. Read the story in Genesis 39.
However, the temptress became the accuser: a perfect picture of two of the main functions of Satan. After failing to get Joseph to have sex with her, Potiphar’s wife resorted to deception and lies. “Rape! Rape!” she cried. “This Hebrew slave tried to rape me…” Joseph was consequently thrown into prison on false, trumped up, and unsubstantiated charges. His reputation was ruined, but his character was golden, pure before God and pure in his own eyes; his conscience unstained.
Joseph remains an eternal hero and model for us when under sexual temptation. He fled the scene. He changed his geographic position. Many times sexual sin is temporary, sparked by location. In this place, Joseph’s workplace was sexually toxic to purity. When our geography is a major contributor to our being tempted, we are commanded to change locations, to flee from the area.
When I was in the Navy, many, many times a compartment on a ship was covered with open displays of pornography. Or a sailor’s bunk area had pornographic foldouts openly displayed. Or when the ship was deployed, there would be social demands to attend parties in strip bars where prostitution was promoted and encouraged.
The solution for these situations was and is the same solution taught throughout the Scriptures and modeled by Joseph. To stay pure in thought and in deed, I was to either not enter into those spaces and to flee, or, as an officer, I could order the offensive materials to be removed, essentially doing the same function, changing the geography to eliminate the tempting situation.
Two separate New Testament passages speak to the same principle.
“Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, ‘The two will become one flesh.’ But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:15-20, emphasis mine)
“Now in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver but also of wood and clay, some for honorable use, some for dishonorable. Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work. So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.” (2 Timothy 2:20-22, emphasis mine)
In Naval history, this principle is graphically highlighted.
The black ship has a gun range of 24 miles. The white ship has a gun range of 10 miles. It would be stupid for the white ship to get within the range of the black ship’s guns. To survive, it must turn around, and flee away from the presence of the black ship.
This is the same scenario that took place at the beginning of WWII. The black ship represents the DKM Bismarck. The white ship the HMS Norfolk. The English ship was set to follow the Bismarck, reporting back to the British command its location. The advantage was that the Norfolk had radar and could follow the Bismarck while hiding in a fog bank. But the fog bank rose and the Bismarck saw and then targeted the Norfolk. It missed the Norfolk and using the cover of smoke screens and finding another fog bank, the Norfolk escaped from the Bismarck, living to fight another day.
My friend Pete was a Naval Officer assigned to a squadron of warplanes on an aircraft carrier in the Pacific fleet. Pete was a 27-year-old virgin, fighting to keep sexually pure, saving himself for his future wife. All of the other officers in his squadron thought Pete was a prude and conspired together to get Pete to lose his virginity. Even the Commanding Officer and the Executive Officer were in on the scheme. The CO called for a “mandatory all officer’s meeting” to be held at a bar in a foreign country where prostitution was rampant. They rigged up a “door prize” that was to be won by Pete. All week long, various officers spoke to Pete, asking, “Pete, are you coming to the party?” They all wanted to see Pete stumble. Finally, the “big” day arrived. Pete arrived a bit late, and the bar smelled of cigarettes, booze, and cheap perfume and vibrated with the sound of loud rock music. When the presiding officer saw Pete, they had a big drawing and surprise, surprise; Pete’s name was drawn. The prize was a hooker paid for by his fellow officers. Pete figured out the setup and immediately felt betrayed and angry. By the grace of God and through the strength of the Holy Spirit, he ran out of the bar, found a phone, and dialed back to San Diego where his true Christian brothers were stationed. He unloaded his heart. He felt so upset and angry with his shipmates. These were men he was willing to risk his life for, yet they so disrespected his moral values of sexual purity.
Pete is a modern-day Joseph. When tempted, he ran. He ran amidst the cat-calls and half-drunken jeers of his fellow officers. Yet, he kept his integrity, his character, and his reputation.
The application for those trying to keep pure is to always be willing to flee. Ecclesiastes 8:8 says, “No man has power to retain the spirit, or power over the day of death. There is no discharge from war, nor will wickedness deliver those who are given to it.” We will be in this war until we die. We must always be watchful.
We may need to run from the room when the TV dialogue turns suggestive. We need to be ready to leave a movie if an unexpected, tempting sex scene starts to play out. We may leave a party or a function if a stripper or pornographic movie starts being shown. There is no discharge in the time of war.
In a previous blog post about tactics, I spoke of Satanic or demonic attacks from the spiritual realm. He attacks us with the intent to destroy us. When under demonic attack, the methodology is to resist. Since we can’t outrun demons, we are to stand and fight. However, when we are under attack from the world, our tactics demand that we are to resist by retreating, or fleeing.
If we are staying in the same location, with our feet planted at the same time that a prostitute is trying to turn us on, we will eventually lose the battle for purity. This is not the time to stay in that place. We must change our geography, our location, by fleeing. We cannot outrun spiritual forces or demons. But we can outrun suggestive situations. If we RUN when we should be standing and resisting, we will not win the battle. If we stay when we should be running, we will not win the battle. There are different responses required for different threats. We must be wise in our warfare.
It is key to understand the source of the attack and use the appropriate tactic in order to win the battle.