If you genuinely believe sexual sin is wrong and it keeps you from experiencing joy in God, then what?
Then run from sexual sin like you’re being chased by a lion.
Paul tells the Christians in Corinth to “flee sexual immorality” (1 Cor 6:18). Men, don’t gloss over the urgency in his words. The imagery calls to mind refugees fleeing a war-torn battle zone. “Forget going back to the house for our stuff. Grab the kids, we have to run—now!”
An Anti-Lesson from Joseph’s Life
In the book of Genesis, Joseph is often held up as a positive example of running from sexual sin, as he should be. When his boss’ wife tried to seduce him saying, “Lie with me,” he ran so fast his coat was still in her hands (39:12). Presumably, she was in the process of taking it off. Kudos to Joseph. She grabbed; he fled.
Not to take anything away from him, but there are some other details in the passage we need to consider. Here’s how the story begins:
Now Joseph was handsome in form and appearance. And after a time his master’s wife cast her eyes on Joseph and said, “Lie with me.” But he refused and said to his master’s wife, “Behold, because of me my master has no concern about anything in the house, and he has put everything that he has in my charge. He is not greater in this house than I am, nor has he kept back anything from me except you, because you are his wife. How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” And as she spoke to Joseph day after day, he would not listen to her, to lie beside her or to be with her. (39:6b–10)
Don’t miss the details. Joseph is handsome. Joseph knows she intends to sleep with him. Joseph knows his privilege and power as overseer of the entire estate. Joseph knows God would be displeased if he acted upon the sin. Additionally—and this is crucial—Joseph knows she speaks seductive words to him day after day. With this in mind, notice how the story of Joseph fleeing is introduced: “But one day, when he went into the house to do his work and none of the men of the house was there in the house . . .” (v. 11).
If we could speak to Joseph, we would want to ask, “Why were you in the house all by yourself? You oversaw everything, including tons of servants. Why didn’t you bring some of them in there with you as witnesses? Didn’t you want witnesses?”
My goal isn’t to tear down a biblical hero; my goal is to read the Bible well, and reading this passage well means acknowledging what Joseph himself would want us to learn from his life: all men are sinners and in need of God’s grace. It’s common for books on sexual sin to praise Joseph for running, but I think it’s clear he didn’t run soon enough!
Men, don’t flirt with the line. Don’t see how close you can get without falling off the cliff. Don’t see how much time you can spend on ESPN.com without clicking on the scandalous ads that line the edges of the website. The same goes for social media. Don’t linger on Facebook or Instagram hoping to see some racy pictures of your coworker who just took a vacation at the beach.
And speaking of running from certain women, specifically run from two different women. Run from women you find attractive and women who think you’re attractive. I’m speaking primarily to married men. But even if you’re unmarried, there’s a sense in which this should be true of you. There is such a thing as healthy attraction, and there is also such a thing as encouraging healthy, mutual attraction beyond its proper place and context.
If you see old girlfriends, high-school crushes, and ex-wives through social media, unfriend and unfollow them. They shouldn’t be in your feed for you to feed on them.
It’s become controversial and politicized, but I still maintain a married Christian man shouldn’t have dinner on a business trip with another woman he finds attractive or, again, who finds him attractive. And don’t intentionally go to the gym when you know either of these women will be there. “Oh, funny to see you here on this treadmill in the back of the gym; I had no idea you always come here Fridays at 4:15 p.m.” That sort of cultivation of attraction is a prelude for disaster, even if the sexual sin is only ever consummated in your mind.
In saying all this, however, I should add two more things. First, let me say that you are not to shun women generally or blame them for our issues. Men, we must find a way to deal with our struggles without isolating others who do not have any active role or awareness of our attraction. Women are not the problem. Our sin is.
Second, let me point out that we never just run from something. We also run toward something. Paul tells young men to “flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart” (2 Tim 2:22). Don’t miss how the verse ends. Paul tells us to have running partners. We are not made to fight sin in isolation; we are made to share both the joys and the struggles of life alongside others. We run from sin while running toward the Lord with others doing the same. Don’t run alone or too late like Joseph.
Note: This article has been adapted from Benjamin Vrbicek’s book Struggle Against Porn: 29 Diagnostic Tests for Your Head and Heart.