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~ Lead Me Not Into Temptation ~
Part 1 of 2

        I hate sin.  It isn't so much about breaking God's law or reaping consequences of punishment. The deep pain of sin is the pain it inflects upon our Father.

        When a child and parent truly love each other, and one hurts the other, the one who inflicts pain typically runs to the one hurt, eager to make amends and restore the health of the relationship.  When King David committed his sins of adultery and murder, he wrote to God in His penitence Psalm, "You are really the one I have sinned against... Create pure thoughts in me and make me faithful again." (Psalm 51:4, 10)  David was most concerned with hurting his heavenly Father and restoring that divine relationship.

        Indeed, the terrible thing about sin is how it damages and hinders our relationship with our Lord and God.  Forgiveness heals and restores our souls.

        Many people recite the "Lord's Prayer" quickly and frequently, often an example of the "vain repetitions" of prayer Jesus warned against.  This kind of prayer is ineffective, just words.  How many times did we say "Our Father... forgive our sins as we forgive those who sin against us..."?  How many of us have truly forgiven all those who ever sinned against us?  If we haven't, why are we telling God that we have?

        Of all the elements Jesus could have expounded upon in teaching how to pray, He did not pick temptation or evil, but rather He commented further on forgiveness:  "If you don't forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins." (Matthew 6:15)  This seems to suggest that the forgiveness of our sins is a matter of "works" rather than mercy and grace; that God's forgiveness is conditional upon our own forgiveness.  Whether or not this presents a problem with your understanding of salvation, faith and grace or not, Christ's declaration cannot be dismissed.  Forgiving others is an essential practice of our faith and among the most emphasized of Jesus' teachings.

        An old story describes how a saint was jailed for political reasons for many years.  After his release, his good friend asked him of what he had been most afraid.  Torture?  Isolation?  Emotional breakdown?  The saint replied, "No.  I was most afraid that my jailers and the situation would tempt me to sin."

        Some of us are in physical prisons; some of us are in emotional, psychological or spiritual prisons; some are prisoners in addicted, diseased, or damaged bodies.  Regardless of what kind, prisons present many temptations to sin: covetousness (for another's freedom, mobility, resources, abilities, etc.); anger; hate; unforgiveness; envy; self-pity; fear; loss of faith; self-centeredness; and many more.

        Prisons of the body, mind and heart are a desert wilderness of temptation and sin.  The lack of freedom in prisons on the physical level, be they paralyzed bodies, walls, addictions, negative attitudes, lack of hope or faith, diseases, or a spiritual crisis such as the experience of forsakeness, can be like a magnifying glass held in a sunbeam focused onto the heart of the soul.  A hole quickly burns, scarring the heart forever.

        Freedom scatters light, illuminating rather than burning.  "Make your light shine, so that others will see the good that you do and will praise your Father in Heaven." (Matthew 5:16)

        Some prisoners do not even realize they are in a prison.  They don't see the gifts of transcendence God is holding out to them.  Like the characters in Plato's cave, they mistake the shadows on the walls for reality and are content in their limiting illusions.  Because of their lack of awareness, because they don't know any better, they live in a somewhat comfortable level of contentment, and will also die in the same way, in their prison.

        Others are painfully aware of their reality and, therefore, become freedom seekers with a passion.  Their bodies may heal, they may leave their prison walls behind, they may overcome their binding addictions.  They may forever discard their wheelchairs, but they won't be free.  "Jesus told the people who had faith in him, 'If you keep on obeying what I have said, you truly are my disciples.  You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free... If the Son gives you freedom, you are free!" (John 8:31-32, 36)

        This is real freedom, knowledge of the truth.  "I am the way, the truth and the life!" Jesus declared. (John 14:6)  So why don't I feel free?  Teach me, Lord Jesus.  And forgive me for needing to ask.

Click here for Part 2

John S. Hilkevich, Ph.D.
Spiritual Resource Services

Weekly Reflections © January 6, 2001

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