fight or flee

There is a line in The Pirates of the Caribbean where the pirates gathered to decide what to do in the face of a greater enemy. Captain Jack to them, “we must fight to flee.” I think, as Christians however, fleeing to fight might be a better tactic.

A couple verses in John 12 find Mary pouring out her life’s savings on the Lord. For her, it was her heart. For Judas, it was the cash. And it had always been the cash for Judas. This was his secret sin, an overriding propensity which had his number. And Jesus, knowing this, made him treasurer! Jesus knew his weakness, and yet still gave him the cookie jar.

Why would the Lord do such a thing? These questions are best answered, not by reaching for a commentary, but by looking into your own heart. What is the penchant that has my number? What do I do when the cookie jar is open and no one is looking? What in the world is going on and how can I overcome? It doesn’t matter if you are God’s best or the devil’s worst, you must face temptations that are both common to all and temptations that fit you like a glove. And how these tailored temptations are faced will define you.

For Judas, it was taking a coin here and a coin there, all while praying for people. It’s funny how that works. We are easily self-deceived. Tragically, however, this was a secret, three year path to open betrayal. Judas had options; but the one he chose proved fatal.  I believe Judas fought the temptation for a while because, when he began His journey with the Lord, he wasn’t duplicitous. He just had issues, like us.

He had accepted Jesus’ call to discipleship, leaving behind his natural pursuits and following Him. And being around Jesus, Light had to have revealed his heart. He heard Jesus address money and the heart many times. To the rich young ruler, “sell what you have and give to the poor”. To the multitudes, “Blessed are the poor.” To His disciples, “Take nothing for your journey.”

Yes, Judas was aware and fought the temptation for a while. But this was his undoing. And it wasn’t that he didn’t fight hard enough or long enough because the outcome would have been the same. It was that he fought at all.  I don’t know about you, but I can’t fight temptation much. I don’t have the smarts or the strength to engage my darker parts because temptation is never just about defeating something external. It’s always about the heart.

What I can do, though, is flee—from temptation and to Jesus, that is. This is what Judas did not do. Judas struggled to overcome by himself; but in the struggle was overcome himself. And that is how it works. Fighting temptations trip you up, just as much as succumbing. Paul would have had clear counsel for Judas, “Bro, the love of money is the root of your problems, so run as fast as you can from it. Then, let your flight turn into a pursuit of God.” (1 Tim 6:10,11)

Every test is a test of love. In Judas’ cookie jar and in his heart was money. Jesus gave him the cookie jar because He wanted to set his heart free from its pull. Ready access to his secret desire was the best and quickest way for this to happen. Sadly, that release was not Judas’ experience. Pride and its brother, unbelief, kept him from running to Jesus again and again. But if he had, he would have found himself more and more loving Jesus, and less and less caring for money.

Paul said, “Beloved, flee from idolatry.” (1 Cor 10:14) Idolatry is the love union between the sensual and material things of this life and your heart. It can’t be fought. No, it can’t be fought.  This is why you find yourself in situations that “bring out the best” in you.  Regardless of what is in your cookie jar, God is looking to set you free. You might have become quite good at succumbing to temptation. I’m sure you have also tried to resist it, but have you discovered the secret of fleeing—that great pirate tradition? When you realize that you can’t fight your own nature and that He helps the helpless, you will.

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Hard to say.

When we come down to it, sovereign encounters with Jesus and His mercy alone change our direction, our desires, our attitude, our character. We talk about finding Jesus, but it is really more, much more, about Him finding and meeting with us. The best we can do is to present ourselves often to Him and say, “I’m here.” When he encounters us, we will be a bit undone.

Take Paschal, for example, who was a brilliant mathematician and philosopher, and completely given to developing coherent thoughts and writing scientific treatises. He was completely undone. Here is part of a document sewn into his clothing. It was found after his death. He never spoke of this experience, but it radically altered his life.

This is what he wrote:

The year of grace 1654, Monday, 23 November, From about half past ten at night until about half past midnight.


GOD of Abraham, GOD of Isaac, GOD of Jacob–not of the philosophers and of the learned.

Certitude. Certitude. Feeling. Joy. Peace.

GOD of Jesus Christ. My God and Your God.

Forgetfulness of the world and of everything, except GOD.

Grandeur of the human soul.

Righteous Father, the world has not known you, but I have known you.

Joy, joy, joy, tears of joy.

I have departed from him: My God, will you leave me?

Let me not be separated from him forever.

This is eternal life, that they know you, the one true God, and the one that you sent, Jesus Christ.

Jesus Christ.

Jesus Christ.

Let me never be separated from him.

Complete submission to Jesus Christ and to my director.

Eternally in joy for a day’s exercise on the earth.

May I not forget your words. Amen.

Paschal’s staccato impressions of a 2 hour encounter over-rode his methodical, logical mind, and was so unlike him.  This was not a God-sighting.  This was an God-ordained encounter.  From this point, though Paschal still gave himself to finding answers to the difficult mathematical problems of his day, it was secondary to God and the poor.

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