Dunkirk now stands for victory in defeat. By retreating, Churchill was able to save the British Empire. It is not necessarily a mark of cowardice to flee. The wise general in the army calls it retreat. When Paul wrote to Timothy he said “But thou, 0 man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness” (1 Tim. 6:11). There can be no safety from some sins except in flight. Youthful lusts are not to be wrestled with but fled from. Peter was weak when he was unafraid. Then Jesus told his apostles, “It is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered abroad, ..Peter answered and said unto him, Though all men shall be offended because of thee, yet will I never be offended” (Matt. 26:31-34). The apostle Paul was a brave man but he knew when it was time to run away:
And when many days were fulfilled, the Jews took counsel together to kill him: but their plot became known to Saul. And they watched the gates also day and night that they might kill him: but his disciples took him by night, and let him down through the wall, lowering him in a basket (Acts 9: 23-25).
A man will not flee if he is not afraid. There must be an apprehension of danger or there will be no flight. Oftentimes people perish because they have no sense of danger. Destruction is inevitable if we have no fear of what lies ahead. Jesus repeatedly raised the red flag by saying, “Take heed.” Paul carefully pointed out the works of the flesh and the consequences thereof in Galatians 6. In the Colossian letter, chapter three, Paul said “put to death” or “crucify your members which are upon the earth.” Paul further warns by saying “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor. 10:12).
It is not a mean motive to escape through fear. Fear sometimes is admirable prudence. Noah “moved with godly fear, prepared an ark” (Heb. 11:7). We are slow to perceive some dangers. Dangers connected with what men call “sweet sin” are most destructive. A sin that is born of a boastful mind or which is countenanced by the example of others is very dangerous. The most dangerous and poisonous serpents in our land are less likely to be seen. In fleeing we are simply moving toward God, our strength for protection. Let us flee unto God, and like David who said:
Hear my cry, 0 God; attend unto my prayer. From the end of the earth will I cry unto thee, when my heart is overwhelmed; lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For thou hast been a shelter for me, and a strong tower from the enemy. I will abide in thy tabernacle forever: and I will trust in the covert of thy wings (Psalm 61: 1-4).