Why are we not tempted to good?

If we, who were darkness, can become eternal Light (even if gradually, bit by bit), why are we not continuously tempted to do just this? Is it because we actually don’t believe it at all? Or is it because the transition hurts, while our old animal feelings are comfortingly familiar?

Have you ever thought about this? Temptation is something most people experience. Today, though, I will frame this in the classic Christian framework, where we are tempted to sin, ie to do bad things, things we should not do. Either because they harm others, because they harm ourselves, or because they harm our relationship with God. And yet, despite knowing this, we are tempted, often over and over.

The Bible, in James 1, says: “But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.” The space between sin and death is where a Christian will often seek help from the Lord, seeking forgiveness (better late than never!). But the space between temptation and sin is where temptation can be resisted. (Not only by Christians, although we should have a particular motivation and divine help in that regard.)

But are we actually alone with our temptation? In that moment, it will often seem so. Whether it is lust, anger, fear, revulsion, or some other “hot state of the mind”, this rising impulse seems to embrace us and tell us: “Become one with me, and this conflict will end, you will feel whole while we are one.” If I know better, if I seek to resist, I seem to be all alone with my temptation. But is this truly the case?

There is a fascinating story in 2. Kings 6, where the prophet Elisha and his manservant find themselves in a town surrounded by a foreign army. When the servant of the man of God got up and went out early the next morning, an army with horses and chariots had surrounded the city. “Oh no, my lord! What shall we do?” the servant asked.  “Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” And Elisha prayed, “Open his eyes, Lord, so that he may see.” Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.

When we experience an unexpected injustice, we feel anger rising, and we find ourselves completely surrounded and alone in this situation. Why are we not simultaneously tempted to do the opposite? Why don’t we see Jesus Christ, the risen Lord, calling to us: “No, follow me, and you will be a light that shines for eternity. I came all the way down to take on a flesh like yours, so I could lead you the whole way home. If you overcome, you too will become awesome, and have your part in Divine nature, as a true Child of God, Light of Light.”

It is a mystery, is it not? Does the Lord really withdraw from us in our temptations, so that we must call: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Or is it just that our eyes are not opened, so we see only the opposing army and not the glorious support that is on our side?

More research is clearly needed on this topic.

Meanwhile, enjoy a Christian song about resisting temptation. Simplistic and incomplete, it is mainly for motivation, which I feel it does well.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *