Escaping is not the same as avoiding. We escape what is part of us, and avoid what is not part of us. The Christian life is a maze that seeks to escape the corruption that come up as we go about our journey, a corruption that exists within and around us. In other words, corruption which exists in our sinful nature, and that which exists in the world we live in. That is why Paul urges us ‘to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires’ (Ephesians 4:22). In our nature, we are ‘children given to corruption’ (Isaiah 1:4). The older we get, both in years and spiritual advancement, we quickly realize that ‘nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature’ (Romans 7:18). This is not surprising to God who ‘saw how corrupt the world had become, for all the people of the earth had corrupted their ways’ (Genesis 6:12). The corruption of man in turn corrupts the world we live in. ‘The earth is defiled by its people; they have disobeyed the laws, violated the statutes and broken the everlasting covenant’ (Isaiah 24:5). The earth was created to be governed by laws which man should observe, but because man has broken all laws, ‘Therefore a curse consumes the earth; its people must bear the guilt’ (v6). So, even though one manages to escape their own corruption, they also need to escape the corruption of the world, ‘for not everyone has faith’ (2 Thessalonians 3:2), and that is why wicked laws will continue to be passed by wicked people to govern this wicked world.
Becoming aware of one’s own corruption and the world’s is only the starting point of all there is to escaping corruption. Before one can run to a ‘sacred’ place or establishment to escape corruption, one is to be still and look within. This is because escaping corruption begins in one’s own mind. One needs ‘to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness’ (Ephesians 4:23-24). This is not a stride to be achieved in a complex way. It is actually a feat that entails the little habits that tend to be overlooked, as we seek the abstract and more spiritual remedies. But changing the attitudes of our minds begins with practical ways. This includes, ‘put(ting) off falsehood and speak truthfully’ (v23), not letting ‘the sun go down while you are still angry’ (v26), not stealing but ‘doing something useful with his own hands that he may have something to share with those in need’ (v28), not allowing ‘any unwholesome talk to come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen’ (v29). It also involves getting ‘rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice’ (v31), and being ‘kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as Christ forgave you’ (v32). Also not forgetting that, any ‘hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed’ (5:v3) should be done away with. ‘Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which is out of place, but rather thanksgiving’ (v4). All these are practical ways of renewing our minds, but are certainly not the end of escaping our corruption.
Putting off one’s old self by practically adjusting our patterns of thought without replacing them with a spiritual one, only makes us a shell of a man. It is what religion emphasizes- doing away with the old, but not inviting the new to actually complete the work. Thus, escaping corruption becomes based on a person’s own works, yet in reality, the tentacles of corruption are far reaching that only the spiritual can abort. In religion, works and more works are required, but to no avail, because doing away with bad habits is not all there is to escaping corruption. In fact, when an evil spirit leaves a man, it wanders in ‘arid places seeking rest and does not find it’ (Luke 11:24). It then decides to go back to the man to try to inhibit him and ‘When it arrives, it finds the house swept and put in order. Then it goes and takes seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that man is worse than the first’ (v25-26). Using this illustration, Jesus points out that a denouncement of corrupt deeds is simply not enough, rather, a putting on of a new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness is required. We need to invite Jesus into our hearts so that the enemy can find no room to attack us again- as the space is occupied by ‘someone stronger’ (v22). So, Jesus helps us to completely escape the corruption by disarming spiritual powers that our practical efforts simply cannot.
Escaping is an active word. Even though a person has renewed their mind and is clothed ‘with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do(es) not think how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature’ (Romans 13:14), the corruption of the world is still present, and has to be escaped. One therefore is to ‘participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires’ (2 Peter 1:4). Escaping thus requires an active participation by an everyday constant checking of ourselves against God’s divine nature, and readjusting wherever possible. This ‘will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ’ (v8). Acquiring the divine nature by accepting Jesus is only the beginning, but participating in our divine nature by gaining deeper knowledge of Jesus through His Word and prayer strengthens our graces to help us escape the corruption in the world. ‘For this reason, make every effort to add to your faith, goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, goodliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love’ (v5-7). Notice that what started as a practical escape of merely stopping bad habits, now becomes a spiritual one by becoming a likeness of Jesus- of God.
Escaping, therefore, is not merely ceasing to do the bad, but starting to be like God- which only God’s Spirit makes possible when we start to engage with the divine nature imputed on us after accepting Jesus Christ as our Lord and Saviour. An effective way of participating in the divine nature is by listening and obeying the living Word. For, ‘Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like’ (James 1:23). So, it is only by actively contrasting our nature and God’s through His Word, a mirror, that we we actively escape. ‘But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it– he will be blessed in what he does’ (v25). The Word of God and prayer that helps us overcome temptation, perfectly addresses the physical escape of our corrupt nature, and our spiritual formation whilst in a corrupt world. So, religion is not a proper escape, because it focuses solely on the flesh, and ‘The one who sows to his flesh will reap corruption from the flesh; but he that sows to the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life’ (Galatians 6:8). In fact, ‘Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world’ (James 1:27). So ultimately, it takes practicality to start, but a spiritual force to further help us ‘not to conform any longer to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will’ (Romans 12:2). Then, and only then, we will able to truly escape the corruption and enter eternal life, peace, joy, and rest.
‘Flee for your lives! Don’t look back, and don’t stop anywhere in the plain! Flee to the mountains or you will be swept away!’ ~ Genesis 19:17
‘Remember Lot’s wife!’ ~ Luke 17:32