This side of heaven, we Christians are pilgrims — but not aimless ones. As runaway slaves looked to the night sky and followed the drinking gourd, so we look to Jesus, our true north, and travel toward him on our journey home.
And this is vital, though often overlooked, in our war against sin.
The idea of fleeing immorality is certainly a biblical one. Joseph fled the advances of another man’s wife, and the apostle encouraged his protégé, “Flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart” (2 Timothy 2:22). But as Christians, our retreating from sin is not a retreating from war. Our flight from sin is as purposeful as it is active — like Tolkien’s depiction of Helm’s Deep in The Two Towers.
An impregnable fortress stood in a large valley in the northwest of the White Mountains. It became salvation for the army of Rohan and all who would dwell within its walls. Orc hordes spread destruction throughout the land, and those who valued their lives, and their loved ones, fled to Helm’s Deep.
Observe how the survivors did, and did not, flee from their pursuers.
1. You Cannot Run from War
Those who fled to the fortress did not run away from war. The man who evaded his pursuer in his besieged country would later wield his sword at Helm’s Deep. Retreating didn’t mean retiring; it meant strategically re-positioning for battle.
Too often when we flee temptation (which is a grace from God), we hide in the figurative bushes and think that the deed is done. Sin is not defeated by a camouflage mentality. It will not work to curl up into a ball, close our eyes until the morning comes, and hope that it all will soon be over.
Christians flee from sin, never from war.
Sin eventually will win every game of hide-and-go-seek, because the enemy — our “old man” — lingers in the shadows. Temptation is always with us. Sin is always crouching at the door, and we must rule over it (Genesis 4:7). And we rule over sin not by hiding from it, but by putting it to death.
The ravaged citizens of Middle-earth did not flee to a vacation resort but a military base. We retreat to a higher hill, a more strategical position from which to strike. “If you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live” (Romans 8:13).
2. Flee to a Place of Power
The people of Rohan retreated to a fortress. This prompts a critical question for us: When we flee, where do we flee to? The risen Christ calls us in 2 Timothy 2:22 both to flee and to pursue. Do we flee from sin to the straw house of entertainment? To the tattered shack of a favorite hobby? Or to the battle-tested, stone fortress at Helm’s Deep? We may escape death for the night only to awake to an orc’s blade at our throat. Your destination is as important as your fleeing itself.
Only one bloody doorpost can shelter us from the angel of death. Only a new Master can redeem us from the old tyrant of sin. Christ must be our refuge.
Outside of his keep, all will fall — it is not a matter of if but when. Our Lord did not speak in vain when he said that apart from remaining in him, we can do nothing (John 15:5).
Apart from Christ, chronic sin will remain chronic — or one chronic sin simply will be exchanged for another. The resilient hydra will continue to show its many heads. The pack of wicked Uruk-hai warriors will never tire or relent. The enemy knows no cease fire. The battle is won or lost by our fleeing to, and abiding in, the impregnable refuge of our Redeemer.
So when your ears catch the drum of approaching orcs, and you feel the desire to surrender to sin, flee to Christ. He is a proven haven who has withstood all the artillery of the devil (Luke 4:1–13). We fight in his armor and are armed with his sword (Ephesians 6:17). Our daily battle cry is not simply, “Away from sin,” but, “To his keep!”
We flee to Jesus, the Helm’s Deep with no secret vulnerability, no drainage grate to exploit.
3. Find Proven Paths to the Fortress
Merely running is insufficient. And merely knowing the destination will not be enough. We need to find proven paths to access Christ, so that victory isn’t theoretical but real.
The paths we take from various temptations will differ, but the principle is the same: seek to find refuge in Christ. Passivity will not keep us from tasting the forbidden fruit. So we actively flee to Christ through well-worn paths such as prayer, Bible intake, camaraderie with fellow soldiers, confession, repentance, accountability, and private and corporate worship.
And we fight sin with a particular destination in mind: the citadel who is Christ.