Author: Chad Hyatt
Reflection: v. 2, ‘he was tempted by the devil’
It seemed to me that the Bible Belt I grew up in was hell-bent on convincing me I was hell-bound. My mom would browse Christian bookstores when I was a kid, and I would inevitably find my way to the comics section. Christian comics in the 70’s? Y’all have no idea. As a teen, I discovered Al Green, and among his gospel numbers was one entitled, Yield Not to Temptation (For Yielding Is Sin), that I thought was pretty catchy. So naturally enough, even though we didn’t go to church, topics I presumed to be essential to a good Christian life were made up of words that felt pretty scary to me back then—like sin and temptation and how to be holy. To be honest, I haven’t really thought about these themes using those terms in a very long time. But reading about Jesus facing temptation in the wilderness gives us an opportunity to re-think traditional ways we have understood theological categories like temptation. One way of talking about temptation is anything that pulls us away from our hearts staying centered in our true identity as beloved children of God. Temptation is anything that makes us feel the need to prove our worth—to ourselves or to anyone else. The core of the temptations that Jesus faced is found in all the ‘if’s’ that call into question his identity: ‘If you are God’s beloved child, prove it by this…’ We face temptation when we are lured away from the truth of our belovedness and try to prove our worth, by defining ourselves through wealth or power or privilege or status—and the list could go on as long as there are enough materials laying around by which we can piece together a DIY sense of self. Yet being tempted doesn’t call into question our faithfulness. We will always find ourselves tempted to measure our worth by some other standard. Growing deeper into our hearts, into the truth of our belovedness as children of God, even as we struggle against our own broken and destructive patterns, is a life long process. It doesn’t end. It didn’t end after forty days in the wilderness for Jesus. As they say, the struggle is real. But more real by far is the truth of God’s love for us. Temptation is nothing more than when we are pulled away from that truth.
Prayer Jesus, you stayed true to who you knew yourself to be, a beloved child of God, even when you were tempted to prove yourself. Help us to overcome every temptation to become anything other than who we are, beloved just like you.