THE OBLIGATION OF RETREAT

The young man and his companions were talking up a fight. Arrangements were made concerning a place to meet the opponents and, amid great excitement, well after midnight they made their way to the meeting place. The opponent and his supporters were there and the fight began. But something went wrong, terribly wrong. The scope of the fight escalated and others were drawn into it. The young victim became involved and in the developments that followed his eyes were gouged. Reportedly, he will be lucky if he can see vague shapes and colors. There was much sympathy aroused and expressed in the publicity that followed.

Inevitably, this became the subject of a talk-show session moderated by a policeman – the show “Legal Eagles.” Callers-in claimed the young victim had been in many fights, as had been also his attacker. One caller said his own son had been eight weeks in drug rehab. The supplier? The victim! The Policeman Moderator replied, “Well, I don’t know any of the details but whatever happened to the obligation of retreat?” The obligation of retreat! That phrase stuck in my thoughts. The lawman spoke of it as a legal principle of importance. If you can avoid trouble, you have the obligation to do so.

This goes against the grain of our American way which glorifies the shootout at the O.K. Corral. You know, the Earps versus the Clantons sort of thing. But is there not a Biblical principle of great importance here?

In I Corinthians 6:18 the Holy Spirit says, “Flee fornication.” In 10:14, same book, “Flee from idolatry.” II Timothy 2:22 “Flee also youthful lusts.” I Thessalonians 5:22 says “Abstain from the very appearance of evil.” Another translation says “Avoid the very appearance of evil.” Yet another says, “Flee the very appearance of evil.” These all tell us there is an obligation of retreat IF we are to live a committed Christian life. In some situations, retreat is a sign of moral courage or virtue, not of cowardice.

In the Old Testament, Joseph, one of the all-time great Bible heroes, fled the amorous advances of Potipher’s wife when other defenses failed. There was an obligation of retreat.

The world would be a better place if we replaced our heroes with those Biblical characters who had the approval of God.

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