Monday, 23 March 2009

Filey Parish: Blogging For Lent- Lead me into temptation?

When we pray ‘Lead us not into temptation’, what do the words mean? They seem to say that God might actually want to lead us into temptation at some point, maybe if we're naughty enough. Isn’t it the Devil who is supposed to fulfil that role, as he demonstrated when Jesus was in the desert? Isn’t God supposed to help us resist temptation? Isn’t it hard enough for us to resist the things that lure us away from Him without Him actually making things harder for us? Doesn’t that amount to teasing?
I had always thought that this was a translation problem and that the words really meant ‘Protect us from temptation’, but now I am not too sure. I am beginning to suspect that the translation could be perfectly accurate and that God does sometimes lead us quite purposefully into situations where we may encounter temptation. It is a very unsettling thought, and does not fit with the cosier images of God which I often entertain, but it stands to reason that just as my own parents did not always prevent me from encountering tempting situations (Which, needless to say, I often succumbed to), neither will God always steer me away from them. The concept of being ‘tested’ often crops up in the bible and in Christian literature, but when we are faced with really horrible situations, I don’t think God thinks of them as clinically and coolly as simply ‘tests’- like obstacle courses that he watches us attempt with an amused grin on his face. That would mean that He was dispassionate. I think that, like most fathers, He would much rather we didn’t have to go through these challenges, but knows that we can only grow if we exercise our capacity to overcome trials and temptations. He knows we will often fail, but that is just part of the process, like falling off a bike before we find our balance. But he is infinitely patient, which in my case is just as well, and he has promised us that he will never tempt us beyond our capacity to endure.
So I don’t think that God would ever directly tempt us to do something he abhors, but he will sometimes ‘Lead us’ into tempting situations and encourage us to use the power He has given us to overcome them. Can we think of them as a gift then? Well, I for one would find it very hard to pray ‘Lead me into temptation’, however much of a gift it may be, so for now I think I’ll stick with the version Jesus taught us.

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