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.
Lida Ward says
“If you know who you are, you will always know what to do.” Amen to that. My coffee and this meditation are the most lovely way to begin my Sunday. Thank you!
David, you said, “If you have even one precious moment for reflection today, don’t waste it worrying about some wrong you’ve done.”
I read that and thought, “Wow, I’ve had several precious moments.” I intended to answer your sin question but chose instead to sit in quiet, one precious moment after another.
Anne Kimball says
What a beautiful message and your words are so beautifully crafted that I “feel” your message in an existential way! I love “trust in you innate union with God and rest in that holy belonging”. I will!
JUDITH M FERTIG says
I was so moved by this message today. It is so profound. A “thank you” seems hardly enough, but thank you, David.
Thanks, David. It’s a wonderful reminder that truth is always relational – just as we are (when we remember who we are!). Peace, Johnna
Susan Rorer Whitby says
If I keep love as my North Star, perhaps I can reach for that star and I can try to put away the wrongs of my past and look only to the rights of my future! Thanks for giving love a star of it’s own!
From your other writings I’ve distilled at least one definition of sin: throwing away this life in search of some grander, idealized version. And today, I think you helped illustrate the counterintuitive notion that if we focused on the “things left undone” with our lives, some of the sins of “things done” would take care of themselves.