Turn and Run
Ali was a beautiful, smart, and talented teenager with loving parents. But after high school something prompted her to try heroin. Her parents noticed changes in her and sent her to a rehabilitation facility after Ali eventually admitted the impact it was having on her. After treatment, they asked what she would tell her friends about trying drugs. Her advice: “Just turn and run.” She urged that “just saying no” wasn’t enough.
Tragically, Ali relapsed and died at age twenty-two of an overdose. In an attempt to keep others from the same fate, her heartbroken parents appeared on a local news program entreating listeners to “run for Ali” by staying far from situations where they could be exposed to drugs and other dangers.
The apostle Paul urged his spiritual son Timothy (and us) to run from evil (2 Timothy 2:22), and the apostle Peter likewise warned, “Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith” (1 Peter 5:8–9).
None of us are immune to temptation. And often the best thing to do is to steer clear of such situations where we’ll be tempted—though they can’t always be avoided. But we can be better prepared by having a strong faith in God based in the Bible and strengthened through prayer. When we “[stand] firm in the faith” we will know when to turn and run to Him.
More than Water
One of my earliest childhood memories of church was a pastor walking down the aisle, exhorting us to “remember the waters of our baptism.” “Remember the waters?” I asked myself quizzically. “How can you remember water?” He then proceeded to splash everyone with water, which as a young child simultaneously delighted and confused me.
Why should we think about baptism? When a person is baptized, there’s so much more to it than the water. Baptism symbolizes how through faith in Christ, we‘ve become “clothed” with Him (Galatians 3:27). Or in other words, it’s celebrating that we belong to Jesus and that He lives in and through us.
As if that weren’t significant enough, the passage tells us that if we’ve been clothed with Christ our identity is found in Him. We’re the very children of God (v. 26). As such, we’ve been made right with God by faith—not by following Old Testament law (vv. 23–25). We’re not divided against one another by gender, culture, and status. We’re set free and brought into unity through Christ and are now His own (v. 29).
So there are very good reasons to remember baptism and all it represents. We aren’t simply focusing on the ordinance itself but that we belong to Jesus and have become children of God. Our identity, future, and spiritual freedom are found in Him.
Don’t Feed the Trolls
Ever heard the expression, “Don’t feed the trolls”? “Trolls” refers to a new problem in today’s digital world—online users who repeatedly post intentionally inflammatory and hurtful comments on news or social media discussion boards. But ignoring such comments—not “feeding” the trolls—makes it harder for them to derail a conversation.
Of course, it’s nothing new to encounter people who aren’t genuinely interested in productive conversation. “Don’t feed the trolls” could almost be a modern equivalent of Proverbs 26:4, which warns that arguing with an arrogant, unreceptive person risks stooping to their level.
And yet . . . even the most seemingly stubborn person is also a priceless image-bearer of God. If we’re quick to dismiss others as fools, we may be the ones in danger of hardening in our arrogance and becoming unreceptive to God’s grace (see Matthew 5:22).
That might, in part, explain why Proverbs 26:5 offers the exact opposite guideline. Because it takes humble, prayerful dependence on God to discern how best to show others love in each situation (see Colossians 4:5–6). Sometimes we speak up; other times, it’s best to be silent.
But in every situation, we find peace in knowing that the same God who drew us near while we were still in hardened opposition to Him (Romans 5:6) is powerfully at work in each person’s heart. May we rest in His wisdom as we strive to share Christ’s love.
In 1722 a small group of Moravian Christians, who lived in what is now the Czech Republic, found refuge from persecution on the estate of a generous German count. Within four years more than 300 people came. But instead of an ideal community for persecuted refugees, the settlement became filled with discord. Different perspectives on Christianity brought division. What they did next may seem like a small choice, but it launched an incredible revival: They began to focus on what they agreed on rather than on what they disagreed on. The result was unity.
The apostle Paul strongly encouraged the believers in the church in Ephesus to live in unity. Sin would always bring strife, pursuit of selfish desires, and dissonance in relationships. But as those who were made “alive with Christ” the Ephesians were called to live out their new identity in practical ways (Ephesians 2:5). Primarily, they were to “make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (4:3).
This unity is not just simple camaraderie achieved through human strength. We are to “be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love” (4:2). From a human perspective, it’s impossible to act in this way. We cannot reach unity through our own power but through God’s perfect power “that is at work within us” (3:20).
Whatever the Cost
The film Paul, Apostle of Christ takes an unflinching look at persecution in the early days of the church. Even the movie’s minor characters reveal how dangerous it was to follow Jesus. Consider these roles listed in the credits: Beaten Woman; Beaten Man; Christian Victims 1, 2, and 3.
Identifying with Christ often came at a high cost. And in much of the world, it’s still dangerous to follow Jesus. Many in the church today can relate to that kind of persecution. Some of us, however, may feel “persecuted” prematurely—outraged any time our faith is mocked or we suspect we were passed over for a promotion because of our beliefs.
Obviously, there’s a colossal difference between sacrificing social status and sacrificing our lives. Realistically, though, self-interest, financial stability, and social acceptance have always been intense human motivators. We see this in the actions of some of Jesus’s earliest converts. The apostle John reports that, mere days before Jesus’s crucifixion, although most Israelites were still rejecting Him (John 12:37), many “even among the leaders believed” (v. 42). However, “They would not openly acknowledge their faith . . . for they loved human praise more than praise from God” (vv. 42–43).
Today we still face societal pressures (and worse) to keep our faith in Christ hidden. Whatever the cost, let’s stand together as a people who seek God’s approval more than human praise.