Saturday, August 9, 2008

Building Up Resistance

Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

                        James 4.7

Plain Talk

You gotta love James. While not all agree, most scholars think he was a close relative of Jesus who later took charge of the Jerusalem church. Whoever James was, his epistle stands out from the others for its blunt force and candor. He calls it like he sees it and has no problem saying what he thinks. If you want plain talk about following Christ, James is your man. For instance, this verse comes after a scathing indictment of Early Church improprieties. James blasts them for quarreling, greed, wrong motives, self-gratification, worldly affections, and pride. He finishes with two directives: obey God and resist temptation.

Thrill Seekers

We’re all thrill seekers of a kind. Something (or someone) tempts us with an offer we know in our hearts we should refuse. It pushes the right buttons, makes the right promises, and dangles the right bait. We’re moving along, gaining ground in our Christian walk, and the next thing we know, temptation pops up out of nowhere. It’s against our better judgment to stop. Yet we do.

Having lost momentum, we take a few minutes to negotiate with ourselves. “I really shouldn’t” slips into “Maybe just this once,” quickly followed by “What harm could it do?” We may have a moment of clarity about what’s happening. We reluctantly walk away only to find we can’t shake it off quite so easily. That’s when “I deserve this” and “Nobody tells me what to do” come into play.

Forewarned is Forearmed

Serious temptation won’t go without a fight. It wants us many times more than we want it—making it hard to handle if we’re unprepared for it. That’s why we build up resistance as James instructs. How do we do that? Paul urges us to “Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.” (Ephesians 6.11) He gives us a checklist of things to wear: truth, righteousness, readiness, faith, salvation, and God’s word. In overcoming temptation, forewarned is forearmed.

If we resist it adamantly enough, temptation will leave us to prowl for easier targets. If you’ve hung around for last call, you know how this works. The analogy is not inapt. At best, temptation offers an exciting one-night stand—or maybe a brief fling. We want something more enduring and meaningful, however. True to form, James tells us how to find it in the very next verse: “Come near to God and he will come near to you.”  It’s just that easy.

(Tomorrow: Preparing to Pray)

Personal Postscript: Tempted to Scream

This is the kind of stuff that makes me want to scream! I don't doubt the kind soul who hatched this tacky idea meant well--although I must question the motive behind giving God credit for the concept. What well-meaning Christian parents wouldn't spend a few bucks to put their tots in divinely inspired jammies? (Never mind that their little angels look eerily like Ku Klux Klan kids.) 

Setting fashion and taste aside, there's a bigger issue here--and it's too egregious to excuse. The armor of God is not sleep wear! It was originally designed for protection as we defend ourselves against temptation. It's meant to be worn at our most alert and vigilant. What are we saying to these young, impressionable minds

Let's do the math: armor is to PJ's as temptation is to... dreams!

Seeing how easily someone can take one of the most powerful, vital passages in the New Testament and falsify it for his/her senseless purposes or profit--to say nothing of foisting it on children--is it any wonder that gay Christians are misunderstood and mistreated by other believers? If I were a gambler, I'd put all my chips on this: the consumers this product targets and the intolerant Christians who target us are one and the same.

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