Temptation: a means to salvation
Most men will encounter personal crisis within their marriage. This crisis is an opportunity, and a test, accompanied by an associated temptation. A crisis presents man with an opportunity to discover or rediscover his essence, but it is also a test of survival, without such a test no man can become a man of greatness. Within the storm of a crisis, a husband is violently pressured to follow the temptation to preserve himself, even at the cost of his marriage and his fatherhood. The evil one is determined to use a crisis situation to manipulate a husband, a father, into denying his masculine essence, and to believe that he must abandon his vocational post, that he could “do better”, or that he “doesn’t deserve this.” A husband in this condition becomes vulnerable to violating his marriage by means of adultery, addictive lustful habits or impurity of heart, believing that he has the right to pursue these options that bring supposed happiness. Faith cannot be proved without a crisis and a crisis cannot be endured without faith. In the Chinese language the word ‘crisis’ is comprised of two letters – one meaning danger, the other meaning risk. St. Augustine said that temptations are the path to salvation, to greatness. On one hand there exists real danger and risk, while on the other hand huge opportunity. Temptations will come – but what do we do with them? How do we make use of them? God allows temptation because He allows us to be free to choose Love – to choose Him. God doesn’t coerce us into loving Him – into following the true path that leads to happiness. He let’s us decide and that moment of decision is the moment of temptation.
Condemn? Excuse? Release
How do we respond to temptations, particularly sexual temptations? We discover the ideal way of dealing with such temptations in John 8, the account wherein our Lord was tempted with the question of the adulteress woman. Early in the morning, just past dawn, Jesus was in the temple teaching. The pharisees bring to Him a woman “just caught in adultery.” According to the law of Moses she is to be stoned, for fear that the punishment due to her sin would come upon the entire community. The crisis, the temptation presented to Jesus is this: if He obeys the law He condemns her and falls short of true mercy; or if he doesn’t, he excuses her sin. Unfortunately, most of us have been trained to believe, that when facing the temptation of lust we have two options: to resist the temptation but condemn the woman, or excuse her. We condemn her for her immodesty, her lack of respect for herself. Or we excuse her thus giving in to the temptation to objectify her, using her to gratify our fleshly appetites. Jesus, when presented with this temptation “stoops down” and begins writing on the ground. He then “rises up” and says, “let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” He then “stoops down” and writes on the ground. One by one the pharisees leave. After this, Jesus “rises again” and says, “Woman, are there any left to condemn you?” “No” she responds. “Neither do I, go and sin no more.” Jesus’ actions, each of them, have huge significance. Jesus’ act of stooping down the first time symbolizes His incarnation, His condescension to become like men – from the dust. The word “Adam” means from the earth. Jesus becomes the New Adam, condescending to the earth to “re-write’ salvation history in our very dust. He rises to defend woman, whereas the first Adam did not. Then He stoops down symbolizing his death and burial into the earth, and rising up a second time is significant of His resurrection – His power to forgive – His power to release. Whereas the first Adam complied with the first woman who tempted him, the New Adam did not excuse her sin, nor condemn, but released her. This is the key to defeating lust: when presented with sexual temptations, we should not condemn, nor comply but release woman to God.
Use you lose. Give you Live.
In a book called Morals for the 21st Century, John Baines discusses the concept of electromagnetic energy (EME) and how all creatures emit this energy. The more that a creature is “living” and has “creative energy” the more EME the creature transmits. Documented statistical research demonstrates that if the meridian, that is the pathway for energy in the human body, begins at 80 units, when a man masturbates the unit value of energy drops 47.25% over the next two hours, and almost 60% after 24 hours. On the other hand, normal sexual relations increase a man’s creative energy on average 2.8%. From a scientific perspective this reinforces the concept that lust kills the man within – it kills his ability to be creative, to give life to those around him. You use you lose. You give you live. So, when facing crisis and temptations in our marriage we are called to give, not take; to not condemn, but to release – release the thoughts, the woman and the temptation to God.
The Sacrifice of Lust
So how do we give, or release our lusts? How do we release woman to God? A while back a mission priest explained the relationship between the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea. The Sea of Galilee is the largest, below sea level, freshwater lake on earth. It teams with life. Why? Because the Jordan river flows into it and out of it. The dead sea, on the other hand, receives water from the Jordan river, but it has no outlet. Therefore its salt content is 35%, that is 10x more that the ocean. The salt concentration is so rich that the sea cannot support any life. In the context of sexual attraction, relationships with women, working online, etc. we will be bombarded by tempting thoughts. If our relationship with our wives is in crisis at any level, we will become extremely vulnerable to such temptations, and the thoughts will only increase. If we hold on to these temptations, attempting to suppress them, by condemning the beauty of woman, we will be tormented and could eventually comply with the thoughts. All of this leads to internal death of soul and self. But if we release them to God, offering to Him our struggles as a sacrifice, we make lemonade out of lemons. We will be allowing God to transform our struggles, our work, our water, into wine – into divine grace, for ourselves and for others. Sin is a reality that isn’t spoken of much these days. The word Sin is derived from the Greek word used for missing the mark. Greek archers, when missing the target sinned. We all sin, we all miss the mark. But what is the mark? The mark is eternal union and communion with God. When we sin, we look for that union in other places, which only leads to internal death – as the research shows. Crisis in our marriages, and sexual temptations can lead us to union with God if we act like the Sea of Galilee, and let them flow out of us to God. He can transform our temptations into a means of salvation.