When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next, for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes. (Matthew 10:23 ESV)
Matthew 10:5-42 are the “marching orders” of the apostles. And they are very helpful for those of us engaged in an apostolic task of church planting in dangerous places among unreached peoples.
1. Apostles are sent into danger
Contrary to the platitudes of the immature, the apostles did not pursue persecution. They pursued obedience, which sometimes led to persecution and sometimes led to blessing. They pursued obedience, but because by nature they were sent among the lost, they were sent into danger. Danger is a daily given for God’s apostles. It is one of the few constants for the ever-shifting apostolic life. And these dangerous contexts are often not passive—as if we are stepping into and out of neatly designated “danger zones.” Rather often the danger actively pursues us. It is genuinely like wolves chasing after sheep (10:16). What then is the hope, security, and comfort of sheep in a wolf-ridden land but the strength and love of their Shepherd?
Tweet this: The apostles didn’t pursue persecution, but obedience—sometimes to persecution, sometimes blessing. @VergeNations
2. Apostles will be persecuted
“When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next.” Apostles will be persecuted. That much is very sure throughout the New Testament apostolic work and the history of the church. “If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household.” (10:25b).
3. Fleeing is permissible
Fleeing persecution can be OK. In this context, Jesus permits fleeing under persecution because there is more work to be done. “For truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.” This is in accord with current CPM/DMM strategy: spend your time where God is working, not where He is not working. Learn to move on.
Tweet this: Spend your time where God is working, not where He is not working. Learn to move on. @VergeNations
4. Fear of man is not permissible
The command is clear in v. 26-33:
- “So have no fear of them”
- “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul”
- “Fear not, therefore”
We are not to fear man and the power of man to kill because:
- “nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known” (v. 26)
- They can only kill the body, but not the soul (v. 28)
- You are most valuable in God’s eyes (v. 29-30)
- Jesus will acknowledge in favor His faithful before God Himself! (v. 32-33)
How to sum up? You are sent into danger. Harm will come. You may flee. You may not fear. And to add to this: sometimes you may stay your course knowing that persecution will come (e.g., Paul going to Jerusalem).
All in all, whether we flee or stay, we are to live by faith in Him and not by fear. We might stay and risk in faith, or we might flee in faith.
Tweet this: The dif b/t living out of fear and living out of faith is the presence of faith, not absence of fear. @VergeNations
The difference between “living out of fear” and “living out of faith” is the presence of faith, not the absence of fear. We may fight in faith or flee in faith. We may also fight with fretting or flee with fretting. Yes, that much is true. Fighting or fleeing is very much not the indicator of the triumph of faith or fear. So we must not be immature and think so. Rather, we must break past mere contexts for decisions and ask the questions, “Why flee?” and, “Why fight?”
Tweet this: Fighting or fleeing is very much not the indicator of the triumph of faith or fear. @VergeNations
Photo Credit: Jonas Nilsson Lee [CC0] via unsplash.com