When Does Run Mean Run?


Run from anything that stimulates youthful lusts.
Instead, pursue righteous living, faithfulness, love, and peace.
2 Timothy 2:22


In Genesis 39, when Potiphar’s wife wanted sex with Joseph, he told her, “How can I sin against God?” Then he ran out of the room. She tried to stop him by grabbing his robe. As he tore himself away she tore off his robe and kept it.

Wow, that must have been quite a fight!

Potiphar was an officer in the Egyptian army. I imagine him quite a stud with a lovely, centerfold-quality, trophy wife. Joseph had been sold into slavery by his jealous brothers. Potiphar purchased Joseph to become his personal household slave.

Day after day, she invited him to have sex with her. Do you think he wanted to have sex with her? I do. Think about it. Joseph was her personal slave in a land where immorality was okay. They could have had sex… no big deal.

When her husband came home, she showed him Joseph’s robe and said, “See, he tried to rape me.”

In his rage, Potiphar threw Joseph into prison. Joseph would rather disobey his mistress, run out in the street naked, be misunderstood, and thrown into prison. Joseph obeyed God in a land where no one else did—and got into big trouble!

Obeying God doesn’t guarantee we’re going to be understood or stay out of trouble. Joseph got into trouble…

  • With himself, by denying his sexual desires.
  • With his boss’s wife and his boss, when she asked him to do something contrary to God’s laws.

Joseph’s circumstances got real hard for a few years. But God never left him. Under all that pressure, God grew his character. (Sometimes I wish I could read Joseph’s diaries.) In the end, Joseph finished well. He married the king’s daughter and they had two sons. He named his first son Manasseh, which means forgetting, because Joseph said, “God has made me forget all my troubles and everyone in my father’s family.” He became second in command to the most powerful man in the world. A few years later, Joseph reunited with his father and reconciled with his brothers.

That’s one of the Bible’s main themes: Stories of people under extreme pressure—those who gave in and those who didn’t. Those who gave in didn’t end well. Those who persevered faithfully were rewarded.

You and I can’t get far in life without facing trouble. Since we’re going to get in trouble anyway, why not get in trouble for doing what’s right?

Back to the verse, God says run! Run? I’d question my interpretation if the Bible said it once. But Paul writes the Corinthians: Run from sexual sin!

Do you mean literally run out of the room? Sometimes. Or maybe don’t enter the room in the first place. Look the other way. Close your eyes and erase the image your mind wants to memorize.

But why, when everyone else is doing it?

Paul tells Timothy not only to run from sin, but run to righteous living, faithfulness, love, and peace. Surround himself with men and women pursuing the same path. Looking back, sometimes I had to stand alone in obeying God. But it sure is easier when I hang out with people reaching up for the same standards.