Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing at all during those days, and when they were over, he was famished.
The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.” Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone.’”
Temptation by nature, is not easy to spot. It is usually subtle and almost imperceptible. It gets us because it is just a slight variation on something good, not a glaringly obvious change. The devil did not say to Jesus, “You’re hungry, why don’t you go and mug an old lady and steal her bread.” Jesus would not have felt tempted by that. But turning a couple of stones into bread sounded harmless enough…
It’s the temptation to just be normal. Just be nice, get on with quietly doing the right things, just like they’ve always been done. At the personal level it the temptation to just have a good job, get married, have kids, go to church on Sundays, join the Rotary Club, go for walks in the park, write a few cheques for World Vision. Just be comfortably anonymous. If we all did it the world would be a nice quiet peaceful place. At the church level, it is the temptation to run nice worship services, have morning tea after the service, have a Sunday school for the church kids, have ladies guild and a men’s prayer breakfast, and perhaps a young adults social group, put on an annual fete, and all be very nice to each other. It doesn’t sound too bad because it isn’t. There is nothing much wrong with it.
It’s just that there isn’t much right with it either. A church like that might even grow, if it’s in the right place. But it won’t really have any impact on the world. It won’t be helping to ensure that God’s will is done on earth as in heaven. It won’t be following Jesus on the road that involves lots of tough decisions and costly choices. It won’t be following Jesus in the sort of radical confronting liberating love that got him in trouble with religious and political leaders. Jesus could not take that comfortable option without turning his back on us, and abandoning us to our own demise. We can’t take that option without turning our backs on him and abandoning the rest of the world to its demise.
Nathan Nettleton (http://laughingbird.net)