Today I'm reading about temptation, which is the subject of tomorrow's lectionary texts. Altho, I'm not preaching, -it is my colleague's privilege- I consider preparation for worship equally important. The temptation of Jesus in Matthew 4 is an interesting text to which I've been drawn in the last several years. In Christian Century's January 29, (www.christiancentury.org) Living The Word, Christian Coon engages the question as to whether God tests us? Jesus indicates we should pray for deliverance from testing. It is an interesting question.
Perhaps more engaging is the experience itself. No matter from where it comes, temptations are part of life and they are not always the expected vices of immorality, or even gluttony. It seems to me the temptation is often for us to react in kind. To simply "be human" in some words and to give back what is given; to meet the opposing force with equal and opposite force. It's close to a Newtonian law, but is not the way Jesus taught it.
Whether we turn the other cheek and refuse to engage in violence, or we meet the violence with love of equal intensity, the opposing forces are not equal. Looking in from the outside it seems that violent forces are overwhelmingly more powerful than those the Christian has at one's disposal. Yet when engaged in the experience itself, one can see that the options of love are far more powerful than anything the world can dish out. Perhaps you really 'have to be there.'
Christian Coon says, "Jesus doesn't race around calling out the devil so they can fight. . .he waits and prepares, fasting and praying. he doesn't procrastinate; he confronts the tempter. He doesn't overanalyze the situation by thinking it to death; he uses the right amount of reason and faith to refute the devil. Intentional preparation and courageous confrontation are powerful tools. (my emphasis) In the Christian faith, these are the Lenten disciplines that we can utilize when life's test are before us." Thank you Rev. Coon, (GenXRev.com) you are right on the mark.
Is temptation real? From where does it come? All interesting intellectual questions, but more important to our daily living is the preparation for the moment when it does come. "Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil." amen, let it be so!