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Taking Cover: Running from Your Enemies

By David Jeremiah

Dr. Richard Kimble’s slip-sliding trip through a maze of maintenance tunnels deep inside a concrete dam led only to a dead-end: an opening in the face of the dam hundreds of feet above the boiling water below. Turning around, he looked down the barrel of U.S. Marshall Sam Gerard’s gun. The wrongly-accused fugitive had two choices: surrender to the lawman and go back to prison, or . . .

JUMP! And that’s exactly what he did.

In one of the most heart-in-throat moments in film history, we see Dr. Richard Kimble dive from near the top of a huge dam, fall like a speck of debris against the white-water cataract pouring down the face of the dam, and disappear in the froth below. Not surprisingly, Marshall Gerard stares in disbelief. He doesn’t say it, but he had to be thinking at that point: “Either this guy’s innocent or he’s crazy.”

It turned out he was innocent. Wrongly-accused fugitives will take dramatic steps to prove their innocence.

When The Fugitive was released in 1993, it attracted almost as enthusiastic an audience as the television drama on which it was based. The 120 episodes of the 1960’s TV series, The Fugitive, tracked the original Dr. Richard Kimble’s search for the killer of his wife so that he could prove himself innocent.

It took five years for the television fugitive to win his freedom and only two hours for the movie fugitive. Such is the power of the screenwriter—closure can come at any predetermined time and place. But it’s not always so easy to escape one’s pursuers in real life.

You Are a Fugitive

You may never have been falsely accused of a crime and wrongly pursued by those who seek to do you legal or physical harm, but that doesn’t mean you haven’t been a fugitive of some sort in your Christian experience.

For instance, Jesus said, And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake (Matthew 10:22). In other words, just for being a friend and follower of Jesus, you will be hounded by many in this world. The New Testament, as well as church history since the first century, is filled with examples that validate Jesus’ prediction.

Peter confirmed this when he wrote to Christian slaves (substitute “employees” today) that they would suffer for their “conscience toward God” (1 Peter 2:19). That’s all—just honoring God by being a good employee will make you a fugitive of sorts, drawing the ire of an employer and other employees who want to keep the standards set comfortably low.

Finally, if you manage to escape the fugitive label at the friendship level, you will never get rid of the target painted on your back by Satan. Peter tells us that “your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8). And more often than not, Satan attacks through human intermediaries.

So, as a Christian, you are likely to be a faith-fugitive at some point in your life. It was not idle poetic musings that caused Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist, to prophesy about the coming Jesus, calling Him a “horn of salvation . . . [sent] that we should be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us” (Luke 1:69, 71). Granted, we need a Savior to save us from our sins. But as Zacharias was to learn from the lives of his son and divine Nephew, “All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12).

How should you deal with your enemies? It’s interesting that David (Old Testament) and the Son of David (New Testament) were the most persecuted individuals in their eras. From them we can gain insight into the life of a fugitive.

David, the Old Testament Fugitive

David’s road to the throne was not an easy one (Acts 14:22). He lived as a fugitive for a large part of his pre-royal life. He was anointed to be king as a young teen and finally took the throne at age 30 (2 Samuel 5:4). So for 15 years or more he lived as the object of hatred and opposition.

As a young man, David was shunned by his father (1 Samuel 16:10-12), ridiculed by his brothers (1 Samuel 17:28), and verbally attacked by Goliath, the Philistine giant (1 Samuel 17). When David killed Goliath, he was lauded by the people of Israel, praise that provoked jealousy and persecution from King Saul (1 Samuel 18:6-9).

It was the king himself who became David’s personal “Marshall Gerard.” David was guilty of no crime, yet he was attacked and hunted all over Israel like a “partridge in the mountains (1 Samuel 26:20). Four times Saul made attempts on David’s life, and eventually forced him to flee into exile where he came close to seizing David on three different occasions (1 Samuel 23-26).

When Saul finally died in battle, David left his fugitive status and went to Hebron where he was declared king (2 Samuel 2:1-4). But the challenges weren’t over. One of Saul’s generals installed a son of Saul, Ish-Bosheth, as king. Not until Ish-Bosheth died, seven years later, did all Israel unite around David (2 Samuel 5:1-5). Near the end of his life, David was driven out of Jerusalem by the supporters of his son, Absalom, whose intent was to usurp the throne from his father (2 Samuel 15-18).

In his later years, David made some serious errors in judgment in his personal life. But in his journey to the throne, he had to deal with what we today might experience: unjust persecution at the hands of those that hate us. How did David respond—and how should we?

1. With faith. When David was in the right, and he knew it, he believed God was on his side. He believed that Goliath was an ungodly intruder into the domain of God. David approached his conflict with Goliath “in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel” (1 Samuel 17:45). That is the equivalent of us praying today in the name of Jesus Christ (John 14:13). Conviction must be informed by faith—a knowledge of the ways and will of God. But when it is so informed, the shield of faith is a mighty defense (Ephesians 6:16).

2. With courage. David was not afraid of a fight, and neither should we be. Whether it was attacking a nine-foot giant with a sling and stone, killing a lion or bear (1 Samuel 17:34-37), or executing justice against a thankless, godless fool (1 Samuel 25), David was a courageous young man. Though combat had ceased by the time of the New Testament, we still see plenty of courage in the likes of Peter and John (Acts 4), Paul (Acts 23-26), and Jesus himself (John 2:12-25). We are required to live in a hard world at present, but we are not required to lie down and let it roll over us.

3. With fear. Like any human being, David occasionally expressed fear when he was being pursued. But there was Someone he feared more than he feared Saul, Abner, Adonijah, or Absalom: the Lord God. David never lacked for courage or faith as a fugitive in the wilderness, but he knew he was on a leash with limits. He refused, for example, to take vengeance on Saul several times when he had the opportunity and the right to retaliate (1 Samuel 24:6). What he lacked was authority—permission from God. Just as Jesus didn’t physically retaliate against those who hurt Him (1 Peter 2:21-23), so we should not either.

Jesus, the New Testament Fugitive

While David provides food for thought in dealing with our enemies, Jesus’ teaching exceeds all other examples: “But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you” (Matthew 5:44).

Regardless of who or what you are running from, let love conquer all. Have faith, but exercise it with love. Be courageous, but temper it with love. And fear the Lord because you love Him more than you love your own safety or reputation. Just as Jesus knew when to stand up to His oppressors and when to yield to the greater purposes of God, so the Holy Spirit will give you that same wisdom in the face of your enemies. 

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This article was first published in Turning Points Magazine & Devotional.
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