Every year on the first Sunday in Lent we listen to the saga of Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness. It’s an epic story, and every great drama needs a hero with a backstory.
In this case, the hero is still wet from his baptism, a moment of initiation where God’s naming and owning is explicit. No less than a voice from heaven exults, “This is my Son, the dearly loved, in whom is my delight” (Matt. 3:17). The God he called Abba is totally united with him, and Jesus’ will is wholly given to God. He does nothing, he says, on his own.
Enter the Tempter, in a high-stakes bid to split Father from Son. All three temptations are enticements to take matters into his own hands. To turn stones to bread and be his own provider rather than waiting for heaven’s daily bread. To leap from the pinnacle of the temple, and force God to save him, as promised. To bow before the Tempter and win global dominion, rather than serving the world in humility.
What is sin? The temptation here is not so much to do the wrong thing, as to be the wrong person–not to break the rule but to break the relationship. So much of our efforts are spent trying not to do the wrong thing, which often spares us from the real effort—of being the right person, the man or woman of God’s own creation, named and owned at our baptism. It’s certainly true that wrongdoing can cause enormous heartache and suffering, but the reason we devolve into those ill-advised actions is because we have forgotten who we are. It is a kind of temporary insanity.
Thankfully, even though he was delirious from a forty-day fast, Jesus was able throughout the long ordeal to remember his identity-in-God. And if you know who you are, you will always know what to do: Trust in your innate union with God and rest in that holy belonging. Live inside that spacious self and let go of your small, grasping self. Make love your North Star. Give your life away…and watch it be miraculously given back to you, over and over again.
If you have even one precious moment for reflection today, don’t waste it worrying about some wrong you’ve done. Remember instead your true identity, and be who—in God’s eyes—you already are.
Question for Today:
What is sin, really?
Why is it so easy to get wrapped around the sin axle, rather than accepting our God-given goodness?
Question #3 “In a stressed-out world, how do I deal with my anger?” comes Tuesday February 28.