[After his baptism,] Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was thrown by the Spirit into the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing at all during those days, and when they were over, he was famished. The devil said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.’ Jesus answered him, ‘It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone.’’ (Luke 4:1-4)
Growing up with fairly strong teachings on Sin and Hell, I formed a view that Temptation was something to be Resisted. Take the narrow path to the narrow door, even though it may look harder, and all that. Our life was a pilgrim’s progress and when I came across temptations the key to resisting them was a special combination of will-power and prayer. Simple.
Except – not simple at all. Will-power and prayer are a lot easier to say than to practice, resisting temptation is even harder. When I gave into temptation, was it that my will-power wasn’t strong enough, or that I wasn’t praying enough? Either way it was a quick step towards thinking that I wasn’t enough. Which was then a hop skip and a jump to relying on that amazing grace that covers a multitude of sins. And if you’re looking at grace only as the wild card up your sleeve to play when you have failed at Resisting Temptation, well, sooner or later it’s easiest to cross over to the wide path and gate and live as you like, and use grace as the card swipe into the narrow door when you reach your journey’s end.
It was pretty sweet on the broad path for a while.
But after a while, I started to find I was struggling to connect with God as I had previously. I knew He was still there, and that His grace was sufficient, but I did not feel as in tune with Him on just a personal, day to day level. Over time this started to chip chip chip away at some pretty foundational things I had always taken for granted: hope, patience, forgiveness – a lot of the fruits of the spirit, now I think about it. So maybe it’s time to for me to rethink resisting temptation.
Maybe: the narrow path should be taken, not because it leads to heaven as the reward at the end, but because God is on it with you.
Maybe: sin isn’t a matter of following a list of dos and don’ts so that you can stay on God’s nice not naughty list. Maybe sin is about when you prioritise self’s self over self’s connection with God, and what it means for us as individuals when we are disconnected from the Creator of the Universe, the Source of Love and Life.
Maybe: resisting temptation isn’t about white-knuckled will power, but about recognising what nurtures or inhibits connection with our Mother Father God.