“But one day, when [Joseph] went into the house to do his work and none of the men of the house was there in the house, [Potiphar’s wife] caught him by his garment, saying, ‘Lie with me.’ But he left his garment in her hand and fled and got out of the house” (Genesis 39:11-12).
After putting up with sexual harassment and eventually assault, Joseph literally runs away from Potiphar’s wife to escape sexual immorality. Unfortunately, Potiphar’s wife uses the torn garment in her hand to accuse Joseph of forcing himself on her, angry that he kept denying her (vv. 13-20). After all, who would deny the chief officer of Pharaoh’s wife? I’m sure she was quite beautiful, and I imagine Joseph in his spirit might’ve been tempted. (Or maybe not. Perhaps she was quite ugly.) Nevertheless, Joseph exercises holiness and flees from sexual immorality, just as St. Paul would highly caution the Corinthians much later, “Flee from sexual immorality! Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body” (1 Corinthians 6:18).
In pastoral counseling, when I counsel parishioners who are struggling with any kind of sexual sin, aside from assuring them of their forgiveness in Christ, one of the practical methods I advise all of them to do is, “Flee from sexual immorality!” Literally. Whether the sin is lust for the opposite sex, pornography, premarital sex, adultery, or same-sex attraction, I work with them in a step-by-step plan to literally flee from sexual immorality. If the temptation does not stop at a certain step, go to the next one. The step-by-step plan I give them usually goes like this:
- Step 1: Flee to prayer (whether this be extemporaneous prayer, the Lord’s Prayer, or the Psalms). Pray for 5-10 minutes, even if it’s as simple as praying the Lord’s Prayer or a psalm over and over again. (Depending on the individual and their situation, I will often given them specific psalms to pray.)
- Step 2: Flee to a friend. Call a friend, or someone else you trust, to get your mind off of it. (If they’re in a 12-step programme for sex addicts, one of these people would be their sponsor.) Tell them you’re triggered and talk about literally anything else other than sex. (Precluding this step is a system of accountability that would’ve been put in place, which is any number of friends and/or family who know your struggles and can help keep you accountable.)
- Step 3: Literally flee! Go on a run or a walk, or bike.
- Step 4: Flee to your pastor—that is, to Christ. If after any one of these or all of these you still give in to temptation, contact your pastor for Confession & Absolution.
This part of Joseph’s story teaches us not only to literally flee from sexual immorality, but it also teaches us that godly living does not always lead to good results in the world, especially when it comes to sexual matters. The world literally worships sex; the continuing sexual “revolution” proves it. And anybody who does not submit to its tenets is ostracised and shunned. A Christian who remains chaste, especially in teenage and young adult years, will be teased by their friends and bullied by others for retaining their virginity. Their friends will even pressure them into having some premarital sexual encounter, as often portrayed in obscene movies where the marginalised high school group of unpopular kids try so arduously to lose their virginity before graduation lest they be shunned into further marginalisation in the effort to finally be included in the nebulous mass of “popularity” among which nobody really cares about your sexual résumé anyway.
The pressure can be immense, and it is so immense that the youthful usually give in to it, not yet wise enough to realise its utter transience. It is also especially difficult for those who suffer with same-sex attraction, who are to remain celibate—that is, chaste—for the rest of their lives, just as the straight person struggling with lust for the opposite sex with no desire for marriage would have to remain celibate for the rest of his or her life. This is extremely challenging not only for the perpetual temptations that will be there for the rest of their lives but also because the world will tell them to give in to these temptations, even that these temptations or “feelings” are good and right. Such is the unholy rhetoric of the apostate church of Jezebel, who not only indoctrinate the false goodness of these feelings that only have a place in heterosexual, monogamous marriage according to God’s original design but even “ordain” such apostates into the Office of Holy Ministry (see Revelation 2:20-23; 17).
However one flees from sexual immorality, whether that be my 4-step plan or another method, we have the same comfort as Joseph, “But the LORD was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love” (Genesis 39:21). Joseph did not have it easy after doing the godly thing of fleeing from sexual immorality, but the Lord strengthened him by His Spirit and in the end, Joseph came out on top not necessarily because of his faithfulness but because of God’s faithfulness to Joseph.
The Lord is with us, too, as we bear such a cross as this and follow Jesus—as we go the way He is going, the way of the cross (John 14:1-6). Yet in the end, we also will come out on top, not because of anything we might do—not even because of our flight from sexual immorality—but solely because of the perfect, righteous work of Christ on the cross through whom we are justified by faith.
Featured image from Joseph and Potiphar’s Wife by Filippo Falciatore. Wikimedia Commons.