The Biblical principle of fleeing persecution

“When I had returned to Jerusalem and was praying in the temple, I fell into a trance and saw him [Jesus] saying to me, ‘Make haste and get out of Jerusalem quickly, because they will not accept your testimony about me.’  (Acts 22:17-18  ESV)

These are Paul’s words. He’s standing on the steps of Roman barracks in Jerusalem. The Tribune who had just arrested him had given Paul permission to address the mob of angry Jews who wanted to kill him.

“Make haste and get out of Jerusalem quickly, because they will not accept your testimony about me.” These words, uttered by our Lord Jesus to the apostle Paul, are an example of the Biblical principle of fleeing persecution. I don’t think we could find a more authoritative example: it’s a direct instruction from the Lord’s mouth to flee persecution, to escape from danger and specifically from dangerous people who resist the counsel of God and want to do harm to a follower of Christ.

[April 3, 2023: Editors’ notes:

—For some comments made prior to April 3, 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 3, 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 3, 2023 that quoted from the post to the post as it is now (April 3, 2023), click here [Internet Archive link] for the most recent Internet Archive copy of the post.]

8 thoughts on “The Biblical principle of fleeing persecution”

  1. Fleeing to safety — excellent principle.

    Unfortunately, many people still think that not being physically abused makes the relationship “safe”.

    And, of course, how does one know when, or if, it’s safe to return? Are you ever required to return after your home and life have been destroyed, and can no longer love as a wife should love a husband? In my situation, he has seemingly accepted responsibility, apologized, and may even be embracing the Lord’s authority. But with all I’ve been through, it will take years to rebuild the trust, and I doubt the love will ever return.

  2. In response to Little Miss Me, that seems a dilemma for some of us. What does God expect from the wife who feels she can no longer love as a wife should love her husband, and yet the husband says he is sorry, says he accepts responsibility, says he is turning to the Lord. What would God say to us? Also, how would God have us respond to those around us, who know nothing of the abuse within the marriage, that has left us wives numb, and / or fearful, angry and loveless; but now see the husband demonstrating (whether real or false) a form of repentance, and are angry that we wives cannot be sweet and understanding and giving grace to our husbands, as Christ gave grace to us?

  3. I know these questions raised by Little Miss Me and Anonymous are really enormous for many victims. There are two parts to it all, but the two parts are closely related.

    1) The survivor’s thoughts, beliefs and feelings.
    2) The bystanders’ attitudes, especially members of the congregation who don’t get it and who unwittingly fall into collusion with the abuser, even if only by remaining “neutral”. Neutrality, as we’ve discussed on this blog before, is not neutral. Do a category search for “neutrality” if you want to read those earlier posts.

    I think we can deal best with the bystanders by first getting clear in ourselves about what we feel, think and believe regarding

    (a) The definition of domestic abuse: It is not limited to physical violence, and a victim can be grievously and dangerously abused without any physical violence (see our definition of abuse on the right side of the blog. Also see Lundy Bancroft’s book Why Does He DO That? and Patricia Evans’ book The Verbally Abusive Relationship.).

    (b) The principle of repentance and what it should look like in a domestic abuser (see my Checklist for Repentance, and do a category search on this blog for “repentance”).

    [This link was corrected to reflect the new URL. Editors.]

    (c) The biblical understanding of forgiveness: What it IS and what it is NOT, which means differentiating between the three aspects of forgiveness (judicial, psychological and relational) and the non-necessity of reconciliation with the persons who mistreated us. (See Ps Bob Kerrey’s sermon What Forgiveness IS, and What it is NOT [Internet Archive link]1, and also do a category search on this blog for “forgiveness”.)

    When we know these things, then we have our feet planted on solid ground. We stand on defensible biblical principles. Once we know the principles, we can apply them to our own abuser and our own situation.

    We can then refute the bystanders who try to guilt or shame us, and pressure us into unwise reconciliation with the abuser. This is where we need nerves of steel and necks of brass, and much support from cyber friends like this blog hopefully provides, because the bystanders usually don’t want to be educated. They think they already know so they don’t think they need to learn. But they have sub-biblical thinking. They believe an apology and more frequent attendance at church equals repentance. They don’t know how to detect let alone confront the manipulative and lying tactics of abusers — even though the Bible gives skillions of illustrations and warnings about wolves in sheep’s clothing. And they believe that because God receives repentant sinners into His family, victims of spouse abuse must receive repentant spouses back into their family. I could go on, but you know the territory here, you know what ignorant / shallow / willfully blind / or well-meaning but immature fellow Christians say when this stuff comes up.

    Ultimately, if we fail to educate and convince the bystanders (as most of us do) then we may have to cut our losses and flee. That’s where the biblical principle of fleeing comes into play even more. We often flee not just from the abusive spouse, but from the abusive church.

    Sorry, that’s the bad news. Now for the good news. You know you’re obeying God when you act with wisdom according to true biblical principles.

    [April 3, 2023: Added from the ACFJ Sermons page: In this sermon Pastor Bob Kerrey explains what forgiveness is and what it is not. The sermon was originally titled Breaking Barriers to Intimacy with God: Overcoming Unforgiveness, but Ps Kerry has given permission for us to apply a different title to it so we have given it a title that will be more engaging for survivors of abuse.]

  4. Looking back with the eyes of hindsight, I found the same principle could be applied to some abusive workplaces I left. With this twist of the kaleidoscope, rather than labelling myself a quitter, I can see I was fleeing persecution.

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