He Who Fights and Runs Away: Choose Your Battles Wisely Part 1

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Authored By  :
Bill Kochman

Published On :
April 25, 2012

Last Updated :
April 25, 2012

NOTE: This article or series has not been updated recently. As such, it may possibly contain some outdated information, and/or ideas and beliefs which I no longer embrace, or which have changed to some degree.

He Who Fights And Runs Away Lives To Fight Another Day, Peter And The Roman Soldiers, Peter Chops Off Malchus' Ear In The Garden Of Gethsemane, Souls Won By Love And Not By The Sword, Jesus' Sacrifice Of Love, Our Christian Sacrificial Service, Peter's Failings: Sea Of Galilee, Rebuking Jesus, His Denial, Faith Tested And Persecution In Our Modern Day, A Prudent Man Foresees The Evil, Flee To The Mountains, When They Persecute You Flee Elsewhere, Don't Try To Fight City Hall, Don't Be Ashamed Of Your Faith, Fleeing Is Not A Weakness Or Denying Your Faith, Retreat Is A Smart Tactical Decision, Be A Bold Witness, Wisdom And Spiritual Discernment, Don't Purposely Provoke Unreceptive People, Consequences Of Resisting The Powers-That-Be, Apostles Go Underground After Crucifixion, Waiting For Promise Of Holy Spirit, Judaism Was A Religion Of Fear, Be Subject To The Higher Powers, Choose Battles Carefully, Jesus Preached With Both Boldness And Authority

The purpose of this article is to examine a particular aspect of Jesus' life and work with which some people may not be too familiar. Even though what I am about to share with you is really quite obvious in the Scriptures, because the information is kind of scattered throughout two of the Gospels, it may not be apparent to some people, in spite of the fact that it is right in front of their eyes. Many of my readers will no doubt be familiar with the old adage "He who fights and runs away, lives to fight another day." From the time that we are young children in school, we have probably heard this wise saying from our parents, even if we did not understand its meaning at the time.

I recall watching a particular scene in a movie a number of years ago -- I am not exactly sure which film it was, it may have been 70 AD -- where the Apostle Peter is being pursued by Roman soldiers. While Peter attempted to evade the Roman soldiers and run away, he was ultimately apprehended by the same. Upon seeing this scene, my first reaction was to think to myself, "The real Apostle Peter would not have acted in that fashion. He would not have tried to run away. He would have boldly stood his ground until the soldiers grabbed him, instead of trying to flee like a coward." After all, this is the very same Peter who pulled out a sword and lopped off the ear of the servant of the High Priest, as we see in these verses:

"Then Simon Peter having a sword drew it, and smote the high priest's servant, and cut off his right ear. The servant's name was Malchus. Then said Jesus unto Peter, Put up thy sword into the sheath: the cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?"
John 18:10-11, KJV

"And, behold, one of them which were with Jesus stretched out his hand, and drew his sword, and struck a servant of the high priest's, and smote off his ear. Then said Jesus unto him, Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword."
Matthew 26:51-52, KJV

As I explain in such articles as "Palestinian Suicide Bombers and Middle East Peace", I am convinced that even at that late hour, Jesus was still endeavoring to instruct His flock. It is my opinion that being as the Lord had chosen Peter to lead the Apostles following His return to the Heavenly Realm, He wanted to send a clear message to Peter -- and to the rest of the Apostles -- that the Gospel would be preached, and souls would be won to God's Kingdom, not by the edge of sword, or by persecution and torture, as the Roman Catholic Church did to their own shame. Rather, souls would be won to the Kingdom of God through love, self-sacrifice, patience, perseverance and sacrificial service.

On a side note, violent Islamists have done the very same thing with their misguided faith as well, as becomes evident just by reading the Qur'an, and studying the violent history of the Middle East.

As all Christians everywhere know, Jesus led by example when He freely and lovingly chose to offer up His own self for the sins of the world. While it was difficult for Him in those final moments in the Garden of Gethsemane when His sweat fell as if it were drops of blood, when He heard the footsteps of the approaching angry crowd, Jesus did not attempt to shirk His responsibilities to His Heavenly Father by trying to run away. Rather, He chose to go all the way to the Cross for the sins of you and I. It is this same message of self-sacrifice and sacrificial service which Jesus taught us in the Gospels, and which the Apostles continued to share in their Epistles in later years, as we see by verses such as the following:

"I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep."
John 10:11, KJV

"For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many."
Mark 10:45, KJV

". . . If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it."
Luke 9:23-24, KJV

"He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal."
John 12:25, KJV

"Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends."
John 15:13, KJV

"Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he [Jesus] laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren."
1 John 3:16, KJV

"I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service."
Romans 12:1, KJV

"Greet Priscilla and Aquila my helpers in Christ Jesus: Who have for my life laid down their own necks: unto whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles."
Romans 16:3-4, KJV

"For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:"
2 Timothy 4:6-7, KJV

If you are interested in learning more about this topic, I encourage you to read my article entitled "Are You Crucified With Christ?".

At any rate, because of the bold, brash image that we have of the Apostle Peter -- who also said "We ought to obey God rather than men" in Acts 5:29 -- upon seeing this particular scene in the movie, my initial reaction was to protest in my mind and say "Wait! That is not how Peter would have really reacted in that kind of a situation. He would not have tried to escape and run away."

However, that is a lopsided view of Peter. While Peter may have hastily pulled out his sword and lopped off the ear of Malchus, the servant of the High Priest, in the Garden of Gethsemane; and while he may have also boldly confronted the Jewish religious authorities in the Book of Acts; it was also Peter who sank due to his obvious lack of faith when he tried to join Jesus who was walking on the Sea of Galilee. It was likewise Peter who foolishly rebuked Jesus when the Lord told them of His soon-coming death in Jerusalem. It was also Peter who, despite his claims of undying loyalty, denied the Lord three times as Jesus stood trial. Consider these verses:

"And in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea. And when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, It is a spirit; and they cried out for fear. But straightway Jesus spake unto them, saying, Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid. And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water. And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus. But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me. And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?"
Matthew 14:25-31, KJV

"From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day. Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee. But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men."
Matthew 16:21-23, KJV

"Now Peter sat without in the palace: and a damsel came unto him, saying, Thou also wast with Jesus of Galilee. But he denied before them all, saying, I know not what thou sayest. And when he was gone out into the porch, another maid saw him, and said unto them that were there, This fellow was also with Jesus of Nazareth. And again he denied with an oath, I do not know the man. And after a while came unto him they that stood by, and said to Peter, Surely thou also art one of them; for thy speech bewrayeth thee. Then began he to curse and to swear, saying, I know not the man. And immediately the cock crew. And Peter remembered the word of Jesus, which said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. And he went out, and wept bitterly."
Matthew 26:69-75, KJV

For a more in-depth look at the life of Peter, I invite you to read my article entitled "Peter: Faith Tried in the Fire".

While some of us today may look back at these events and try to tell ourselves, "Oh, I would have never done that. I most certainly would not have denied the Lord", such thoughts are really foolish, and are born of pride. I dare say that most of us have never really had our faith tested in the same way, or to the same degree, in which the First Century Christians had their faith tested. Many of them suffered both verbal and physical persecution. They were ridiculed, persecuted, thrown into prison, tortured and killed. Have you experienced any of these things to any serious degree? Allow me to encourage you to read the article called "Civil Disobedience and Christian Persecution".

But my point is this: In hindsight, the way in which Peter reacted in this particular movie was probably accurate. It wasn't because Peter was a coward that he was trying to get away. To the contrary, it is not only because he was smart, but it was also because he was obeying the wise counsel that we find in the Scriptures, that Peter may have chosen to try to escape from the Roman soldiers. "What? How is that?" you may be asking. Well, consider the following verses that we find in the Book of Proverbs:

"A prudent man foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself: but he simple pass on, and are punished."
Proverbs 22:3, KJV

"A prudent man foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself; but he simple pass on, and are punished."
Proverbs 27:12, KJV

Those two verses are basically the Old Testament equivalent of our modern adage "He who fights and runs away, lives to fight another day." However, God must receive the credit -- and not some wise philosopher who has become lost in history somewhere -- because they were no doubt written thousands of years before the modern popular proverb came into existence.

Clearly, the writer -- who is assumed to be King Solomon -- is saying that if a person has knowledge of an approaching danger or evil, then if he is a wise, prudent man, he will do everything within his power in order to prepare for the same. If it is possible, he will even try to avoid it. If he fails to take action, then it will be his own foolish fault, and he will pay the consequences for his actions, or lack thereof. Let me give you a clear Scriptural example. When Jesus spoke of the coming destruction of Jerusalem, do you recall what advice He gave to His followers? Consider this:

"When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:) Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains: Let him which is on the housetop not come down to take any thing out of his house: Neither let him which is in the field return back to take his clothes."
Matthew 24:15-18, KJV

"But when ye shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing where it ought not, (let him that readeth understand,) then let them that be in Judaea flee to the mountains: And let him that is on the housetop not go down into the house, neither enter therein, to take any thing out of his house: And let him that is in the field not turn back again for to take up his garment."
Mark 13:14-16, KJV

"And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh. Then let them which are in Judaea flee to the mountains; and let them which are in the midst of it depart out; and let not them that are in the countries enter thereinto. For these be the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled."
Luke 21:20-22, KJV

Notice carefully that Jesus clearly warned His listeners to flee. He did not tell His followers to remain in Jerusalem and be killed along with everyone else. He didn't tell them to stay in Jerusalem and fight against the Roman army as the foolish Zealots, Sicarii and other radicals did and ended up dead. What good purpose would that have served? Quite to the contrary, with the leadership of the First Century Church dead as a result of their stupid refusal to leave Jerusalem, we must wonder if Christianity would have ever even gotten off the ground, and much less propagated throughout the whole world. Let us also not forget that when the Lord sent out His first Disciples on the road to preach the Gospel, He gave them a wise piece of advice when He said the following to them:

"Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves . . . But when they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another: for verily I say unto you, Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come."
Matthew 10:16, 23, KJV

Clearly, Jesus did not tell them to stay and fight city hall. He didn't instruct them to picket and fight for their rights. He said, "when they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another." Now, some people may argue that we are not supposed to be ashamed of our faith, and that by choosing to run away we are in fact demonstrating that we are ashamed of our faith. I wholeheartedly agree that we should not be ashamed of our faith. The Scriptures make this very clear. Consider these verses:

"Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven."
Matthew 5:16, KJV

"Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels."
Mark 8:38, KJV

"For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek."
Romans 1:16, KJV

"For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day."
2 Timothy 1:12, KJV

"For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren,"
Hebrews 2:11, KJV

"But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city."
Hebrews 11:16, KJV

However, please understand that fleeing and running away is not a sign of weakness. Neither is it a denial of your faith, or a demonstration that you are ashamed of your faith. If you were really ashamed of your faith, you would not be out there boldly witnessing to people in the first place. Rather, you would be concealing yourself somewhere and hiding your light under a bushel. The whole reason why you are being persecuted in the first place, is because you were not ashamed of your faith. Rather, you were out there engaging in heated battle in the front lines, being a burning ember for the Lord. Let's be honest here. Every intelligent military strategist knows that retreating in the face of overwhelming opposition can be a smart, tactical move which can save lives in the long run, and preserve them for future battles. He who fights and runs away, lives to fight another day.

When city authorities, shopping mall authorities and other types of authorities tell you to stop evangelizing on their property, they are not asking you to recant your faith. They are simply telling you to not do it there. We may not like it, we may not agree with it, we may not think that the laws are fair and we may even view them as worldly, ungodly devils who only care about profit, but what alternative do we have? If you fight, you may end up spending a night -- or longer -- in jail.

It is wonderful to be a bold witness of our faith for the Lord. As the Apostle Paul writes, we should not quench God's Spirit -- 1 Thessalonians 5:19. As I point out in "Are You a Burning Ember for the Lord?", God will no doubt honor and bless our willingness to boldly proclaim the Gospel Message. The New Testament is full of verses which encourage us to be on-fire witnesses of our faith. Consider these sample verses:

"Now when they saw the BOLDNESS of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus . . . And now, Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant unto thy servants, that with all BOLDNESS they may speak thy word, By stretching forth thine hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done by the name of thy holy child Jesus. And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with BOLDNESS."
Acts 4:13, 29-31, KJV

"But Barnabas took him, and brought him to the apostles, and declared unto them how he had seen the Lord in the way, and that he had spoken to him, and how he had preached BOLDLY at Damascus in the name of Jesus. And he was with them coming in and going out at Jerusalem. And he spake BOLDLY in the name of the Lord Jesus, and disputed against the Grecians: but they went about to slay him."
Acts 9:27-29, KJV

"Long time therefore abode they speaking BOLDLY in the Lord, which gave testimony unto the word of his grace, and granted signs and wonders to be done by their hands."
Acts 14:3, KJV

"And he began to speak BOLDLY in the synagogue: whom when Aquila and Priscilla had heard, they took him unto them, and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly."
Acts 18:26, KJV

"And he went into the synagogue, and spake BOLDLY for the space of three months, disputing and persuading the things concerning the kingdom of God."
Acts 19:8, KJV

"And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth BOLDLY, to make known the mystery of the gospel, For which I am an ambassador in bonds: that therein I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak."
Ephesians 6:19-20, KJV

However, at the same time, God's children also need to learn to exercise some degree of Wisdom and Spiritual Discernment when it is called for. It is important that we do not go out of our way to intentionally provoke those people who express no desire in hearing what we wish to share with them. To do so is not only inviting a confrontation unnecessarily, and stirring up their ire, but it is also contrary to Jesus' own advice. Consider this verse:

"Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you."
Matthew 7:6, KJV

If said people happen to be a property owner or a business owner, and if they are preventing us from reaching people who are frequenting their establishment, God will no doubt hold them accountable on the Day of Judgment, and not us. They will be the ones who will have some explaining to do before the Lord, and not us. Earlier, in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus also said the following to His listeners:

"Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison. Verily I say unto thee, Thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing."
Matthew 5:25-26, KJV

In short, if due to your pride, or some other stupid reason, you choose to purposely resist the powers-that-be, and you end up spending some time sharing a jail cell with drunks, prostitutes, drug users and other societal riffraff, then you will have no one to blame but yourself. You may convince yourself that you are suffering persecution for Jesus' sake, but are you really? What if the Lord really wanted you to get out of town, so that you could be a blessing to someone else in some other place? However, instead of following the leading of His Spirit, in your foolish pride, you decided to fight city hall and the powers-that-be, you chose to provoke that shopping mall proprietor or store owner, and now you are sitting in a cell wasting your time. It wasn't such a bright decision on your part after all, was it? Now the Lord will have to send someone else to reach the person in that other city that you missed. Think about it.

In the Gospels, we discover that after Jesus was crucified, the Apostles immediately went underground. While they stayed in Jerusalem, they did not venture out into the public due to their obvious fear of the Jewish religious authorities. While we may be tempted to view this as an act of cowardice on their part, at the same time, we should also remember that Jesus specifically told them to remain in Jerusalem, and to wait for the promise of the Holy Spirit. Considering that their leader had just been betrayed by an angry mob, with the consent of the Scribes and the Pharisees, and that Pontius Pilate's primary concern was maintaining the peace in Jerusalem, we can only conclude the Apostles made a wise choice by remaining behind closed doors for the time being. Consider the following verses:

"Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you . . . And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you."
John 20:19, 26, KJV

"Until the day in which he was taken up, after that he through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles whom he had chosen: To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God: And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me."
Acts 1:2-4, KJV

If there is one thing that we can learn from the Gospel of John, it is that the Jews practiced a religion of fear. In addition to the previous verses where we find the Apostles remaining underground for fear of the Jews, there are a few other verses in John's Gospel where this very same fear is expressed. Consider the following:

"Then the Jews sought him at the feast, and said, Where is he? And there was much murmuring among the people concerning him: for some said, He is a good man: others said, Nay; but he deceiveth the people. Howbeit no man spake openly of him for fear of the Jews."
John 7:11-13, KJV

"And after this Joseph of Arimathaea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, besought Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus: and Pilate gave him leave. He came therefore, and took the body of Jesus."
John 19:38, KJV

Of course, once the Apostles had received the Gift of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost, they underwent a great spiritual transformation, and it was a completely different story. As I explain in other articles, they became veritable firebrands for the Lord, and won many thousands of Disciples to the Lord. But concerning respect for secular authority, a number of years later, the Apostle Paul wrote the following in his excellent Epistle to the Romans:

"If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men . . . Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake. For for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God's ministers, attending continually upon this very thing. Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour. Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law."
Romans 12:18, 13:1-8, KJV

At this point, you may be wondering, "Well, what about the Lord? Did Jesus really follow His own advice? Did He follow this same code of conduct and strive to avoid confrontation with the political and religious authorities?" Perhaps the best way to answer these questions is by saying that Jesus chose His battles very carefully. He knew when to attack boldly, and when to retreat while His enemies licked their wounds. If there is one thing that the Gospels teach us, it is that when Jesus did preach, He did so boldly, with the Authority and Power of the Spirit. Consider these verses:

"And it came to pass, when Jesus had ended these sayings, the people were astonished at his doctrine: For he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes."
Matthew 7:28-29, KJV

"And they went into Capernaum; and straightway on the sabbath day he entered into the synagogue, and taught. And they were astonished at his doctrine: for he taught them as one that had authority, and not as the scribes."
Mark 1:21-22, KJV

"But, lo, he speaketh boldly, and they say nothing unto him. Do the rulers know indeed that this is the very Christ?"
John 7:26, KJV

Please go to part two for the conclusion of this article.

⇒ Go To The Next Part . . .

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