“To you I will give their glory and all this authority… If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” (Luke 4:6-7)
Several years ago, this quote appeared in a daily calendar of bible quotes. On the surface it looks quite appropriate and even useful. Very tempting.
In reality, this is a quote spoken by Satan as he is tempting Christ.
This Sunday, we will be exploring the line of the Lord’s Prayer, “lead us not into temptation.” As a part of our exercise, we will include the passage from which these verses come – the temptation of Jesus from Luke. Why? Because temptation is more complex than we like to admit.
It is a hot topic upon which I have often been asked to teach, especially to teenagers. However, when someone asks me to teach about temptation, to any audience, they are wanting me to give fix-its for how to avoid “bad behaviors.” This is an unhealthy attitude toward temptation and life, because it knocks all our actions down to a laundry list of dos & don’ts.
Temptation is about sin. And sin is about breaking relationships – with God, with others, with ourselves. To talk about the way the world entices us requires that we rethink not only what, but how we think. How we make decisions. What it means to prevail over sin’s entrancing grip will look different in different situations. To say it is a one, two, or three choice list of how-to’s will get us into trouble.
The goal for followers of Christ is to remember that temptation is an inevitability. Sin, in this life at least, is the reality. We will never be perfect at this and frankly, to tell ourselves that we can or should avoid temptation is unfair to even our very best selves. Given that they are a part of life, the way we overcome those things that tempt us is to keep our focus where it should be.
Our lens, through which we check everything else we do, is the love of Christ. This is part of our Reformed heritage. When we are offered an opportunity to take advantage of someone – does this display the love of Christ? What about a way to cause harm to the bodies God has given us? And, key of all the questions, will this action support or injure my relationships with those closest to me?
At the end of the day, the way we treat others and ourselves is the way we are treating God. So moving past temptations is not about avoiding things that we are told are “bad,” but engaging them with the things that are “good.” We should seek to love God and others and ourselves in all that we do. We are meant to find ways to do this rather than simply avoiding things that have a negative impact upon us and our relationships.
So seek positive engagement with those things that tempt you to be anything other than who God has called you to be. Once you know better, be better. And whatever you do, do everything in the name of Jesus Christ, giving thanks to God through him.