Keep Your Distance When Danger Threatens
FEW people are more sensitive to danger than are sailors. They must keep a wary eye on the weather, the tides, and their ship’s proximity to the coast. When both tides and winds combine to drive the ship toward the shore, sailors face hard work and danger.
Under these conditions—known as a lee shore—a sailor keeps considerable sea room between his boat and the coast, especially if the craft is propelled only by sail. A sailing manual explains that ‘to be caught in a gale on a lee shore is perhaps the worst plight’ in which a sailor can find himself. The recommended solution? ‘Never allow your vessel to be found in such a predicament.’ The safe way to avoid foundering on a sandbank or a rocky shore is to keep a good distance from danger.
Christians must be sensitive to dangers that could shipwreck their faith. (1 Timothy 1:19) Nowadays, conditions are by no means ideal for keeping a steady course. Just as a boat can be driven off course by winds and tides, so our dedicated lives can lose direction because of the constant tug of our imperfect flesh and relentless buffeting by the spirit of the world—now almost gale force in intensity.
A Man Who Lived Dangerously
How easy it is to venture unwittingly into dangerous spiritual waters!
Consider an example that occurred near a landlocked body of water, the Dead Sea. We refer to the example of Lot. His decision to live in Sodom brought him many problems and no little sorrow. After a quarrel between their respective herdsmen, Abraham and Lot agreed to live in different areas. Lot, we are told, chose the District of the Jordan and pitched his tent among the cities of the District. Later, he decided to live in Sodom, even though the life-style of the Sodomites distressed him.—Genesis 13:5-13; 2 Peter 2:8.
Why did Lot continue to live in a notoriously immoral city that offended Jehovah deeply and even caused a public outcry from people living nearby? Sodom was prosperous, and Lot’s wife doubtless enjoyed the material benefits of city life. (Ezekiel 16:49, 50) Perhaps even Lot was attracted by Sodom’s vibrant economy. Whatever his reason for living there, he should have left sooner than he did. Only at the urgent insistence of Jehovah’s angels did Lot’s family finally abandon the danger area.
The Genesis account says: “When the dawn ascended, then the angels became urgent with Lot, saying: ‘Get up! Take your wife and your two daughters who are found here, for fear you may be swept away in the error of the city!’” But even after that pressing warning, Lot “kept lingering.” The angels finally “seized hold of his hand and of the hand of his wife and of the hands of his two daughters and they proceeded to bring him out and to station him outside the city.”—Genesis 19:15, 16.
On the outskirts of the city, the angels gave Lot’s family some final instructions: “Escape for your soul! Do not look behind you and do not stand still in all the District! Escape to the mountainous region for fear you may be swept away!” (Genesis 19:17) Even then, Lot begged for permission to go to the nearby city of Zoar rather than abandon the region entirely. (Genesis 19:18-22) Clearly, Lot was reluctant to distance himself as far as possible from danger.
On the way to Zoar, Lot’s wife looked back at Sodom, apparently yearning for the things she had left behind. Because of ignoring the angels’ instructions, she lost her life. Lot—a righteous man—survived the city’s destruction along with his two daughters. But what a price he paid for choosing to live close to danger!—Genesis 19:18-26; 2 Peter 2:7.
Steering Clear of Danger
Lot’s bitter experience shows what can happen if we come close to or tarry in a dangerous environment. Wisdom would dictate that, like good sailors, we never allow ourselves to get into such a predicament. What are some hazardous areas we should steer clear of? Some Christians have gone astray by getting too involved in business activities, by cultivating close friendships with worldly associates, or by becoming emotionally attached to someone of the opposite sex when they are not free to marry.
The wise course, in each case, is to keep our distance from danger. For example, are we alert to the spiritual dangers a so-called golden business opportunity could bring? Some brothers have immersed themselves in commercial enterprises at the cost of their families, their health, and their theocratic responsibilities. Sometimes the lure is the more comfortable life-style that money can bring. At other times it is the challenge of proving the mettle of their business acumen. Some might reason that their motive is to provide work for other brothers or to be able to contribute more generously in behalf of the worldwide work. Perhaps they think that when the business is functioning well, they will have much more time to devote to Kingdom interests.
What are some of the pitfalls? The uncertain economic climate and “unforeseen occurrence” can sink the best-planned business venture. (Ecclesiastes 9:11) Struggling with a heavy debt can bring anguish and may crowd out spiritual matters. And even when a business is booming, it will likely absorb much time and mental energy, and it may require considerable worldly association.
A Christian elder in Spain was in severe financial difficulties when an insurance company made him a tempting offer. Although there were prospects of making a lot of money as a free-lance insurance agent, he eventually turned the offer down. “It wasn’t an easy decision, but I am glad I said no,” he explains. “For one thing, I was reluctant to make money—even indirectly—through my theocratic contacts. And although I liked the idea of being my own boss, I would have had to travel a lot and spend long hours on the job. It would inevitably have meant neglecting my family and the congregation. Above all, I am convinced that if I had accepted that offer, I would have lost control of my life.”
No Christian can afford to lose control of his life. Jesus showed the tragic results of such a course by relating the illustration of a man who accumulated more and more wealth in order to retire and take life easy. But on the very night he decided that he had finally amassed enough money, he died. “So it goes with the man that lays up treasure for himself but is not rich toward God,” Jesus warned.—Luke 12:16-21; compare James 4:13-17.
We must also be on guard against extended association with worldly people. Perhaps it is a neighbor, a school friend, a workmate, or a business associate. We may reason, ‘He respects the Witnesses, he leads a clean life, and we do talk about the truth occasionally.’ Yet, the experience of others proves that in time we may even find ourselves preferring such worldly company to that of a spiritual brother or sister. What are some of the dangers of such a friendship?
We could begin to minimize the urgency of the times we live in or take a growing interest in material rather than spiritual things. Perhaps, because of a fear of displeasing our worldly friend, we would even desire to be accepted by the world. (Compare 1 Peter 4:3-7.) The psalmist David, on the other hand, preferred to associate with people who loved Jehovah. “I will declare your name to my brothers; in the middle of the congregation I shall praise you,” he wrote. (Psalm 22:22) We will be safeguarded if we imitate David’s example, seeking friendship that can build us up spiritually.
Another perilous course is that of getting emotionally entangled with a person of the opposite sex when one is not free to marry. The danger might arise when one is drawn to someone who is attractive, whose conversation is stimulating, and who even has the same outlook and sense of humor. One might enjoy his or her company, reasoning, ‘I know how far to go. We are just friends.’ Nevertheless, feelings once aroused are not easy to control.
Mary, a young married sister, enjoyed Michael’s company.* He was a nice brother but found it hard to make friends. They had many things in common, and they found they could joke together. Mary was flattered to think that a single brother wanted to confide in her. Before long, what seemed an innocent friendship became a deep emotional attachment. They spent more and more time together and eventually committed immorality. “I should have realized the danger at the beginning,” Mary sighs. “Once the friendship blossomed, it became like quicksand sucking us in ever deeper.”
We must never forget the Bible’s warning: “The heart is more treacherous than anything else and is desperate. Who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9) Our treacherous heart, like the tide that drives the sailboat against the rocks, can drive us into a disastrous emotional relationship. The solution? If you are not free to marry, deliberately work to keep your distance emotionally from someone you find attractive.—Proverbs 10:23.
Breaking Free and Keeping Free From Danger
What if we already find ourselves in spiritual danger? Sailors, when being driven toward a rocky shore by wind and tide, desperately work their ships seaward, or claw off, until they reach safer waters. Similarly, we must struggle to free ourselves. By heeding Scriptural counsel, praying earnestly for Jehovah’s help, and seeking assistance from mature Christian brothers, we can get back on a safe course. We will be blessed once more with peace of mind and heart.—1 Thessalonians 5:17.
Whatever our circumstances, we are wise to keep clear of the “things belonging to the world.” (Galatians 4:3) In contrast with Lot, Abraham chose to live apart from the worldly Canaanites, even though it meant dwelling in tents for many years. Perhaps he lacked some material comforts, but his simple life-style protected him spiritually. Rather than suffer a shipwreck of his faith, he became “the father of all those having faith.”—Romans 4:11.
Surrounded as we are by a self-indulgent world whose “spirit” is ever stronger, we need to follow Abraham’s example. (Ephesians 2:2) If we accept Jehovah’s guidance in all matters, we will be blessed by experiencing firsthand his loving protection. We will feel as David did: “My soul he refreshes. He leads me in the tracks of righteousness for his name’s sake. Surely goodness and loving-kindness themselves will pursue me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of Jehovah to the length of days.” No doubt about it, moving along “the tracks of righteousness,” rather than veering toward the paths of danger, will bring eternal blessings.—Psalm 23:3, 6.
Some names have been changed.
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If you are not free to marry, keep your distance emotionally from someone you find attractive