For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.
Goodness in this world does not flourish apart from it being chosen. The potential for choosing the good exists, but its actuality is not a given. Temptation is how we speak of those identifiable moments in our lives when we say yes and no. As one writer put it: “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and freedom.”
To put it in stark terms, the addict no longer experiences that sacred space between stimulus and response. That space for choice, where agency is exercised, is gone. Temptation requires that space. Understood in such terms, “temptation” is a gift.
Upon reflection, all of us can recall pivotal moments in our lives when we said a “Yes” or a “No” (often at the same time) that made all the difference. Often, in those choice moments, it was not a stark choice between good and evil. And yet, as we look back on it, all such defining choices involved a decision about our perception of what is good. This is true even when we have made what we now acknowledge to be a wrong choice.
The writer to the Hebrews speaks of the God we know in Christ as one who knows AND empathizes with our weaknesses…that is, with our capacity to desire and choose what is not good. We always find great encouragement in our failing and fallings when we commiserate with another who knows first hand what we are going through or have gone through. We don’t feel judged we feel upheld, understood, and empowered. It creates the conditions for us to acknowledge the truth of our weaknesses without becoming defined or bound by them.
A healthy recognition of temptation keeps us alert to the importance of choices we make. In that sacred space between stimulus and response, we do not walk alone.
Prayer: Gracious God, as tempting as it is to hide, today I choose to know you in the midst of my struggle to choose what is good and resist what is evil. Amen.