a new way to view temptation

We tend to think of temptation in cartoonish ways. When a situation arises, a devil pops up on one shoulder and an angel pops up on the other. Angel and devil present their case. One of them is told to shut up and we listen to the other.
What if temptation is more than make a decision about a certain action? What if temptation alters us in a fundamental way. What if a path we take is not just one act, but a path that we will follow?
In Creation and Fall/Temptation chapters 4-5, Bonhoeffer addresses the ways in which temptation attacks us at the very heart. He says that temptation impacts us in two powerful ways. Temptation takes two forms: desire and suffering.
When tempted in desire we want God to go away. When tempted in suffering we want God to answer, “Why are you doing this to me?” The temptation of desire stokes our pride. It tells us we do not need God and His law. As Bonhoeffer says, “Spiritual pride arises from disregard of the law and of the wrath of God.” The temptation of suffering provokes us to despair. In despair, we question the promises and the grace of God.
God becomes distant when our desires draw us to temptation. We come in conflict with God when we are tempted in suffering. Bonhoeffer says, “While God disappears from man’s sight in the fire of lust, the heat of affliction easily leads him into conflict with God. The Christian threatens to doubt the love of God.”
So, temptation alters who we are – for better or worse. We are not the same after each temptation. We have either stepped away from God in an attempt to distance ourselves from Him or we have stepped closer to trust Him. We have either become more anxious and depressed or we have entered into a new trust and faith.
We ought to do away with the idea of angels and devils convincing us to act a certain way. How we handle temptation is not just a matter of individual acts. It is a matter of who we become.


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