Tuesday, November 23, 2021

A missed opportunity?

It occurred to me that maybe Satan missed an opportunity to tempt Jesus to sin.  He seemed to hit all the possible weaknesses of Jesus except perhaps one.  The devil did not tempt Jesus with sex.  Our world has turned sex into the single defining aspect of our lives.  From its desires and wants to gender itself, we have insisted that sex is more important than anything else and that it is a need.  Why else would we presume that the whim of a prepubescent youth be judged an inalienable right when it comes to hormones to stop the body from entering puberty with the gender assigned by DNA?  Why else would we judge the life of the unborn expendable if it bothers mother?  Sex rules just about everything.  You cannot bring down a powerful governor even if there are allegations that he deliberately contributed to the deaths of patients in nursing homes but if you accuse him of sexual abuse, he has no choice but to resign.  Sex rules.  So why did Satan not offer Jesus sex as a temptation?

Turning sex into a need has certainly contributed to and perhaps even justified some of the abuse of women and children, to the common use of pornography, to the abundance of the sex trade industry, as well as fueling the agenda for politics for a long time.  But it is not a need in the same sense as other things that are essential to our daily lives.  That does not make it bad but its goodness is certainly within parameters.  It is not simply an instinct that must dominate us or control us.  It is a blessing and a gift but, again, within a context.

Jesus knew this and the devil knew that Jesus knew this.  Perhaps that is one distinction between us and Jesus.  I am not sure that we know this.  Sex has become another of our whimsical needs -- the things we want and we justify them by insisting that we have to have them even though we know the issue here is really self-control.  So Satan tempted Jesus with a true need -- a need that could not be denied -- with food to a man who had survived forty days of fasting.  Even then, Jesus does not bite: “Man does not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”  Jesus denies that mere survival is what determines our lives or needs.  Real necessity is always seen in the context of God's design -- His purpose in creating and redeeming us.  So when the Holy Spirit cast our Lord out of the Jordan and into the wilderness to be tempted, our Lord was never going to deny the Spirit to satisfy the flesh.  But that is exactly what we do all the time.

The great temptation of sex is to place the need outside the context of what is moral and good in the sight of God and to define it as need, as extension of our identity, and to justify the desire as if it cannot be denied without sacrificing our very humanity.  Jesus was not as vulnerable to this as we are.  But you already knew this.  The key here is not rules but for the Christian to place everything within the context of that which does define us, the one thing needful, our life with God and in Christ.  Outside of this we are always in danger and the devil knows how to mix up need and want so that we do the thing that pleases us and offends God and assume we have no other choice.  What is true about so many other things in life is also true with sex.

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