Lord's Day Liturgy

Intentional Distance

In my mind there is a life-and-death difference in current usage between the words avoid and abstain. When I was a young kid, my dad took me to a lot of high school football and basketball games, and at halftime he always found the smokers and lit his pipe. I was just a kid, so I stood with him. I was around it, but had no interest in joining in. I abstained from smoking.

That said, I don’t go anywhere near pits of rattle snakes. I’m not interested in them, and getting too close would be a killer. So I avoid those places.

In 1 Thessalonians 4:3 Paul told the Christians that God’s will was for their sanctification, and in this context sanctification meant: “that you abstain from sexual immortality.” We should understand that with more intentional distance than merely non-participation. The word in verse 3 has the idea of get some distance from, keep away from, avoid contact with.

We use the phrase “fight sin” sometimes, and that’s alright. But when it comes to sexual sins we’re not told to fight but to flee. “Flee from sexual immorality” (1 Corinthians 6:18).

I understand that the narrative arc with Joseph in Genesis 39 is ultimately about God getting His man in place to spare Israel for sake of there being an Israel from which Jesus would be born generations later. But on the ground level, it illustrates that it is better to be naked fleeing from sin than have all your clothes on committing it. Of course fleeing with your clothes is better still.

Joseph was where he needed to be for work but, when temptation found him, he took off. We ought not seek out temptation locations. We should avoid triggers, certain persons or places, apps, screens/pics/videos, times, situations. It is God’s will that we do so.