All humans face similar temptations. There are only so many of them, though they have endless possibilities. The desire to do only for ourselves, to fulfill our own wishes over everyone else’s, to keep to ourselves and to love our stuff – these are real sins that tempt all of us.
How do we overcome these things? They are embedded in our lives, have become the threads that hold our culture together. Be your own boss. Make money. Don’t take no for an answer. Look out for number one. Win at everything. Learn how to take care of yourself. If someone makes you mad, fight them or simply cut them out of your life. And buy, buy, buy. We are taught by this world to take control of our lives.
It’s a delicate balance. We follow other people to do things we shouldn’t. We force ourselves into situations and find out later that we made a mistake. Our sins blind us to do things we know are wrong.
These lessons go directly against what God teaches us, what Jesus taught: love God over all things, and love your neighbor as yourself.
Jesus lived without sin, yet he was faced with all the temptations we face.
When I think about this, I think how hard it must have been for Jesus to avoid sin, just as I avoid sinning by not buying another pair of shoes I don’t need or biting my tongue when I want to say something snide, or even staying out of situations I know are tempting for me. Sometimes it’s easier just to give in. Sometimes I know I am sinning and I just don’t care. It’s not hurting anyone else.
Did Jesus face this internal spiritual battle? In his everyday life, did he have to make decisions to avoid temptations, or was he just that well put together that those things didn’t even cross his mind? What went through his mind when one of his contemporaries was being a real horse’s ass? He always knew the right response. I can’t imagine being tempted to turn on my heel, silently judge, and then gossip later about a person who annoys me, instead taking all the right measures to either teach them to do better or love them and leave them be. Oh, to have the mind of Jesus. Guilt and regret would be strangers. So would smugness and pride.
“If we love one another, God abides in us, and his love has been perfected in us” (1 John 4:12). If Jesus was God on earth, then his love was perfect already. He just didn’t do sin. It seems so simple.
I do sin. I can’t help it. I can’t imagine life without it. I can’t imagine always having the right words, the right feelings, the right responses in every situation. I can’t imagine seeing all the possibilities, and then choosing the one that leads me closer to God every time without fail, the one that perfects the love that is within me. I can’t imagine not taking two steps back for every one forward.
The world gets in my way. It’s bright and shiny and bawdy and tempting. Being loving and spotless and upright and moral are tiring sometimes. Swimming against the current is hard and I just want to close my eyes and float with it.
But – Jesus. Jesus lived here and he saw the temptations, and he didn’t fall for them, not once. He never said it would be easy. He even gave us help and hope that we could draw upon his power anytime to fight against sin and temptation. As Christians we have the challenge and duty to use it in our own lives, to show God’s perfect love and to work to perfect that love within us. It’s a tall order, what with all the shoes and horse’s asses running around.
But God is in us. The same God that was in Jesus, who never sinned, lives in us when we accept the gift. We can avoid temptation. We can avoid sin. Not all, but some. God’s love is bigger and shinier than the biggest, shiniest sin the world has to offer. Jesus knew it, and he taught this to us while he was here. All we have to do is tap into the love that abides in us.
Now that is tempting.
Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Hebrews 4:14-16 (NIV)