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It is interesting that God doesn't call us to walk away from the desires of the flesh. He tells us to flee from them. With reference to the love of money and its related desires He says: But thou, O man of God, flee these things” (from 1 Timothy 6:11). Later He says: “Flee also youthful lusts” (from 2 Timothy 2:22). Fleeing is by nature a wild, desperate, all-or nothing activity. While it can be the result of a deliberate choice, it isn't a careful deliberate action. Fleeing sees danger and responds accordingly. Take for instance, the day I fled from the class bully.

My father taught school in a remote village in western South Dakota. The school was built about a half mile from the main village, and the teachers and other school employees lived on an oval shaped block with the school at one end. Every evening after class, I walked out the double front doors of the brick school building, down the concrete steps, and past the school buses that loaded in front of the flag pole. I crossed the street and stepped onto the grass next to the principal's house. Then, cutting across the neighbors' back yards, I emerged on the street at the far side of the compound. Our house was right across the street, three houses from the water tower.

The meanest boy in my class, maybe the meanest boy in school, lived on the edge of this neighborhood. We took different routes home until the afternoon he decided I needed some attention. I'm not sure where the chase started, but somewhere between the school and the principal's house, I found myself running with the bully close behind. While that danger seems rather minor today, it was real enough in a fifth-grader's world. I ran my best, but I wasn't much of an athlete. My little sister could outrun me--so could the bully.

We were still in the principal's yard when he grabbed my jacket. Most of the adult neighbors were at work in the school. There was no one to save me. He had me.

I was desperate. I was fleeing. My heavy jacket was unzipped. Letting both arms swing back, I ran right out of the jacket and continued the race for home. I didn't wait around to protect my jacket. I didn't wait to see what the pursuer wanted. I didn't care. I was fleeing.

Actually the bully dropped the jacket in the grass and went his own way. Having made good my escape, I took no chances. The jacket lay in the neighbor's yard until my mother escorted me back to retrieve it. I could enjoy her protection because I had fled successfully.

Perhaps the summer before, my whole family fled something scarier than the class bully. Both my parent had relatives living in Rapid City, which lay about 90 miles north of our village. South Dakota is dry country, but that year a heavy rainstorm combined with the rugged terrain to cause a flash flood. Over 200 people died in or near Rapid City. Our relatives all lived in the higher part of town and escaped unharmed and with dry homes. My grandmother had been spending the week with us. Her home was safe, but we were unable to take her there. She spent another week.

We took Grandma home the following week. Another storm was brewing as my dad stopped his new Volkswagen van at a filling station before the long drive back to the village. The greenish looking storm clouds were not reassuring. The civil defense siren that started blaring before we pulled out wasn't exactly reassuring either. Besides, the whole city was jumpy after the recent disaster.

Then the storm struck. Heavy rain and hail poured from the sky. Water flowed in the streets. We headed for the open country, our car partly protected by the wooden fence posts my father was transporting on the top rack. We'd soon be across the flood-prone creek and safe. We didn't get that far. Recognizing a coming flood, the authorities closed the road. A man in a raincoat and sou'wester hat stood in front of his emergency vehicle motioning all cars to turn around and head for higher ground.

Soon, the water ran curb deep. The hail pounded down in a frightening roar. A fountain of water gushed in the street. My dad swerved and missed an open manhole cover. One of my sisters began to cry. I was too young to fully appreciate the situation, but as we struggled uphill against the raging torrent, the light front end of the rear-engined Volkswagen began to plane up on the deep water. The front wheels would lift. Then, the rear wheels would lift just enough to rev the engine, before that small engine's weight and the slowed motion pulled the car back to earth. There was a jolt as another vehicle slammed into our rear end. Nobody stopped. Nobody dared. We were fleeing.

We finally made it to safety in the parking lot of a grocery store high on a hill. The ride had been terrifying, but we were safe. Elsewhere another van washed away, drowning its inhabitants; but we had fled, and we were safe.

I have other memories of that night--of going into the grocery store only to have the lights go out, of watching a speeding fire truck throw a wake of water into the air, of hearing fear in the voices of the men on the radio, of praying hard in that struggling van. There was also a beautiful rainbow as we left town by a higher road. But I wouldn't remember any of it if our scary flight had been unsuccessful. Situations that call for fleeing are serious.

God tells us to flee the lusts that cause us to sin. While my fear of my classmate likely outpaced the physical danger, the spiritual situation is often reversed. We tend not to fear those fleshly lusts that war against our souls. We flirt with them. We enjoy them. But the dangers are real. Scripture says: “Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death” (James 1:15). God tells us to treat the desires of the flesh like I did the class bully and our family did the flood waters. He says to flee.

Fleeing involves leaving behind anything that slows or distracts. When it's time to flee, relationships, pleasures, and possessions lose their importance. The person who hangs onto the spiritual equivalent of a jacket probably won't escape. Banged in cars can be fixed later; drowned families cannot. When it comes to the desires of the flesh, God says, “Flee”!

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