Fight, Flight or Follow

fight or flight

Psychologists say we’re born with this fight-or-flight instinct. They say, when faced with a crisis, our adrenaline starts flowing, and we either stand up to fight or seek a way to flee. They say it’s just human nature.

They say it’s just human nature, but we have Jesus’ nature in us.

But we’re not just human. We are Christ-followers.

When the disciples woke up from their late-night snooze in Gethsemane (Mark 14), a crowd of well-armed guys was tromping through the garden toward them, led by none other than their old buddy Judas, who had recently run away from a dinner party. It was indeed a moment of crisis—a time when their options were limited and their adrenaline surging. In Experiencing God vernacular, they had come to a “crisis of belief,” and what they chose to do next would reveal what they really believed about Jesus.

To demonstrate, Mark gives us two mini-stories inside the bigger story. In the first, Peter draws his sword and cuts off a servant’s ear. (Where Mark is more discrete, John doesn’t mind naming names.  Check John 18:10.) Jesus heals the guy and tells Peter that it’s not the time to fight. Can’t you just hear Peter mumbling, “Well then why’d you tell us to bring the swords?” (Luke 22:36-38)? So at this crisis of belief, the natural instinct to fight was not right.

In the second mini-story, someone from the crowd grabs a young man who has been following Jesus. (Again, Mark is discrete, but some scholars think this was actually Mark himself!) The man is so anxious to escape that he slips out of his simple tunic and runs away naked! Imagine the look on that guard’s face. I wonder if he took the nice linen garment home to his own son or if he trampled it on the ground… Anyway, this young man wasn’t alone in his reaction (although we hope he was the only one clothes-less!). Everyone deserted Jesus in those moments. They choose “flight” rather than “fight.”

Now John’s gospel tells us that Jesus asked the soldiers not to arrest anyone else (John 18:8-9), and they were not tasked with any other arrests except this one, so the disciples didn’t need to flee. Later, when John and Peter show up in the high priest’s courtyard, no one even tries to arrest them. Obviously, the natural instinct for flight wasn’t even necessary.

Only Jesus neither fights nor flees.
He follows.

Only Jesus demonstrates another option—a third reaction to this crisis. He follows. These soldiers and policemen came out with swords and clubs (Mark 14:43), but Jesus had been healing people for three years. He’d even raised the dead. Really, weapons were inconsequential; what could they do to Jesus? Same thing for the number of people who came. Remember when the citizens of Nazareth tried to throw Jesus off a cliff (Luke 4:29)? But he walked right through the crowd and went on his way (Luke 4:30). If Jesus didn’t want to go with this crowd in Gethsemane, He could have just walked away, and no one could have stopped Him. I believe that, as far as Jesus was concerned (maybe not for His followers, but for Him), one man would have been sufficient. If one man had walked up to Jesus and said, “It’s time to go,” Jesus would have gone with that man. Thus, the crowd was equally inconsequential.

What was consequent? The timing. Moments earlier, He told the disciples, The hour has come (Mark 14:41). Jesus allowed himself to be bound and taken to Caiaphas’ home (John 18:12-13), following the will of His Father. It wasn’t the logical thing. It wasn’t the simple thing. It wasn’t the obvious thing. But it was right. Yes, sometimes God leads us to fight, and sometimes He leads us to flee, but don’t forget there’s another option. Sometimes He leads us to “go with the flow,” to let it happen (whatever crisis ‘it’ may be).

The next time you face a crisis, consider all three options:  fight, flight, or follow.

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