“Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles. When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next, for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes. [Emphasis added.] (Matthew 10:16-23 ESV)
Many times we are presented with a false, unbiblical doctrine of suffering that tells us that the Lord always requires us to submit to it and not escape it. Taking Scriptures that speak of how the Lord uses suffering in our lives for our growth and for His glory, these distortions of those Scriptures make them absolute laws which always apply in every case. And, of course, we see this in the pressure that is put upon victims of abuse by their fellow believers. The victim is told that suffering at the hands of her abuser is the Lord’s calling for her. That she is to stay in it and know that she is bringing praise to Christ by being faithful to her marriage covenant, just as Christ is faithful to His Bride, the church (an obviously false parallel if we would think about it for even a few moments).
But there are numbers of Scriptures that show us it is perfectly within the will of God for us to flee from abuse. You could think, for instance, of the times that Jesus Himself departed from crowds who wanted to kill Him. Or of Paul being lowered over the city wall in Damascus, or of his appeal to Caesar when another mob would have killed him. And then we have this Scripture here in Matthew 10 that even goes so far as to tell us that we should flee when persecution comes….even if the persecutor is a brother, a father, or one of our own children! The other Scriptures that instruct children to obey their parents are trumped by this passage in a sense because no parent has the right to abuse and persecute his child. When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next.
Some readers might question this application with the observation that Matthew 10 is addressing persecution for the sake of Christ, not out of some quest for the abuser’s power and control. But is there really any difference? Furthermore, I maintain that many, many cases of abuse are indeed motivated by hatred of the victim for her love for Christ. Flee! That is Jesus’ instruction.
One final thought for our readers to “chew on”. Please do not interpret this as a criticism of victims who are still with their abuser — getting away is just not as easy as just “leaving the jerk”. But here is a thought that is meant to help them to freedom. Is it not possible that fleeing from the abuser’s persecution is a better testimony for Christ than mistakenly thinking that by remaining in the abuse the victim is somehow bringing more glory to Christ? Drawing boundaries and / or leaving is a statement that “this is not a good picture of Christ’s love for His Bride”. “Fleeing to the next city” also serves to free up the victim so that she is enabled to do an even better job of living for and proclaiming Christ to others.
[April 13, 2023: Editors’ notes:
—For some comments made prior to April 13, 2023 that quoted from the post, the text in the comment that was quoted from the post might no longer be an exact match.
—For some comments made prior to April 13, 2023 that quoted from the post, the text in the comment that was quoted from the post might no longer be found in the post.
If you would like to compare the text in the comments made prior to April 13, 2023 that quoted from the post to the post as it is now (April 13, 2023), click here [Internet Archive link] for the most recent Internet Archive copy of the post.]
UPDATE Sept 2021: I have come to believe that Jeff Crippen does not practise what he preaches. He vilely persecuted an abuse victim and spiritually abused many other people in the Tillamook congregation. Go here to read the evidence. Jeff has not gone to the people that he spiritually and emotionally abused. He has not apologised to them, let alone asked for their forgiveness.
1 thought on “It is OK to Flee From Persecution?”
Jeff C, thank you for bringing up this topic. Lately I have been reflecting upon “marital abuse versus persecution” trying to separate the wheat from the chaff. My soul was in agony before leaving my H because of some Bible texts that I had in mind or my H and a pastor threw at me, such as:
And Paul counseling the Romans (Romans 12:14) that they should bless and not curse those who persecute them. Let alone the Scriptures regarding suffering like Christ!
Then there are cases in the Bible when God’s faithful didn’t flee from persecution: Hananiah, Mischael, Azariah, and Daniel in Babylon; Joseph and Jeremiah thrown into a pit; Nehemiah when set up to take refuge in the temple; Stephen when preaching to the Jews…. For a long time it was my conviction that it was my calling to be a “martyr” and witness to my H. That’s until God shed light onto the real nature of abuse. Then with God’s help I was able to extricate myself and flee from the daily torture and malevolent man who dared to call himself a husband. Deliverance from the bondage of Egypt. My Red Sea crossing!
God never intended marriage to be made up of a torturer and a prisoner. Spouses are not called to persecute the other, but to LOVE one another. The tricky and unique aspect with marital abuse is that the very husband is the covert persecutor, whereas with abuse in other relationships like with a sibling, a work colleague, a church member, or a persecutor / torturer for that matter, there is no covenant between the parties. And so people can’t see the forest for the trees. They just see marriage, 2 spouses united, but not one abusing the other.
I think Satan knows exactly what he’s doing in using abusive men as husbands to target godly Christian women, thus bringing into disrepute Christ, Christianity and the church. But by fleeing we are then in a position to hold the abuser accountable, and expose the deeds of the Devil, which is the other round of the battle, the wandering in the wilderness of an ignorant church about abuse….