I guess I’d better confess.
Before I do, may I just say that I thought I could live with the guilt. I tried to convince myself that the transgression was not particularly serious.
But now I feel unfaithful. I feel dirty. Like I need a shower.
It was Monday afternoon. I’m never at my best on Mondays. I was tired. I was out of town. Temptation is always harder to resist when you’re weary and miles from home.
Those are, of course, poor excuses. Want more? I’ve got plenty. But they all crumble.
Only one Person has ever lived a sinless life. He was, we’re told, “tempted, yet without sin.”
Answering those who charged that resisting temptation must have been easier for our Lord because of his divinity, C. S. Lewis said, basically, “Nonsense!” He explained that, if we want to know how truly strong a temptation is, the only way to find out is by resisting, not by giving in. And he wryly wondered how many of us have been seriously tempted to turn stones into bread.
Nor, come to think of it, have I ever been tempted to toss myself off the top of any temple and expect angels to catch me, though I have changed our church steeple lights a time or a few. I figure I’ve gotten all the joy that job is likely to hold; I’m done. If you see me up there again, you’ll know it’s Satan who tempted me.
With regard to temptation, we are all incredibly ordinary, and I think I could prove it. Maybe this Sunday at church, we could just go around the room and let everyone stand in turn and confess his/her deepest, darkest, most shameful sin. (Be sure and come. You’d hate to miss this, and we’d love for you to have an opportunity to join us.)
I’ll betcha cappuccino to decaf that we’d start off holding our collective breaths in “reality TV” style voyeuristic anticipation, adrenaline sizzling through our veins. A preference for back pew real estate might finally make some sense: we’d likely expect the confessing to start up front. And I’ll bet that, long before the last person got to “share,” the whole thing would end up being pretty boring.
The real lesson we might learn—along with affirming the Apostle Paul’s indictment of humanity, “all have sinned”—is that we each fall prey to the worst (and most ludicrous) sin of all: we are so sinfully proud that we really fancy ourselves to be very advanced and particularly
No, we’re not. We’re very ordinary people, spiritual rookies of the rankest sort, who fall to temptation stupidly, easily, quickly, often—and to the very same categories of temptation available since our first parents got snake-bit.
Uniquely tempted? Us!? Are you kidding? None of us is uniquely good at being bad.
So why do I feel so dirty? So small and, yes, unfaithful?
I can hardly look at my phone, but I reach over and put my hand on it gently. It has a fingerprint sensor. But, and here’s my sin—oh, the shame of it!—I fell to sin and to family peer pressure by . . . dare I say it? . . . ordering a phone with fruit on it. Why? Oh, why? I felt remorse even as I left the store!
Samsung’s Galaxy phones have never done me wrong. Sleek, svelte, graceful, and completely customizable, I’ve always loved them. But now I avert my eyes from my faithful phone, and I’m reading about and waiting for its replacement.
The new one has a black notch up on its forehead, kind of like an eye patch. I know. I should not make fun of its deformity. Or its boxiness. My old phone had curves; this one has a metal girdle. To silence it, you flip an actual toggle switch. (Will I need to wait for its vacuum tubes to warm up when I turn it on?)
The new phone comes with half the accessories my old phone did and obtaining them costs twice as much. In overt condescension, it assumes that I’m an idiot and hides most of its actual files.
As my eyes drop down to the fine phone I’m casting aside, my heart falls within me. I am a betrayer. Have I sold my soul, abandoned my principles, for that which is less than what I had? Oh, the shame!
Again the truth pierces my consciousness: faithless folks like me rarely trade up. Yes, and this is also true: the faithless are fickle. Would I be surprised to read my own words in, say, a year from now, snobbishly praising fruitish phones? Not at all, wretch that I am.
But stop. Breathe.
At least I’ve been forced to think more deeply (a few paragraphs above are actually quite serious) about the nature of temptation—and thence my need for grace (serious, for sure). That need is deep. The well of my Father’s mercy is infinitely deeper. And we can call on him at any time.