Back in September as we moved towards the impeachment hearings of President Trump (remember that?), I posted about how Christians should avoid common temptations that would come as things heated up. I had been preaching from the Sermon on the Mount and found so much relevance to that issue and wanted to equip people to handle the situation with grace and wisdom. Click here for the original post.
Then two weeks ago it was clear that the same temptations were creeping up again surrounding COVID-19 so I posted one tailored for the debates surrounding the pandemic. Click here for the COVID-19 post.
Here we are two weeks later, and the Sermon on the Mount is again impressively relevant, perhaps even more so, in the time of protests, riots, looting, and debates surrounding racial issues and police brutality.
Although there is almost unanimous repudiation of the actions of the police in the death of George Floyd, there are countless points of disagreement in the overall discussion. In this and any time of conflict, these 20 temptations will be common, no matter which side you find yourself on. The devil can utilize these regardless of where you plant your flag, so beware.
Elsewhere I have been clear about my position on racism. Spoiler alert! God abhors racism, and He inspired Luke to be very clear about that in Luke and Acts. Click here to read that post.
But this barely touches the surface of the total issue. The purpose of this is not to give my thoughts on all the facets of this discussion, but to give God's warnings in times of conflict such as this.
God's Word stands. It speaks across various times, cultures, situations, locations, and nations. I implore you to listen to its wisdom and warnings, specifically these coming temptations.
[The temptations listed below are the same as the original post, but the examples where needed have been updated for the current crisis.]
TEMPTATION #1- WORRY
Some will be tempted to worry about police brutality. Others will be tempted to worry about riots and looting. Jesus doesn't call us to worry, He calls us to faith. We can rest in God’s sovereign plan. But, to be clear, that does not mean you should not be active in confronting problems. Rather it means our inner soul should be at peace trusting in God as we confront injustice, falsehood, evil, etc.
Do not be worried about anything
TEMPTATION #2- HATE YOUR ENEMIES
Some will be tempted to hate the other side. “They’re lying, they’re incredulous, they’re wicked and ruining the country!” It’s tempting to hate liars and the wicked. It’s tempting to hate your enemies. Instead, Jesus calls us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us.
*Note this does not mean you do not speak up for what is right- see Temptation #12
Love your enemies
TEMPTATION #3- RETALIATION
The opposing side will antagonize you. They’ll antagonize you, even assault you from the other side of the protest. They want you to react. The same riling happens online and in the home. You notice that backhanded comment in the comments section. Your family member gives you that smirk from across the table. They’re begging you to fight back. Will you retaliate or will you turn the other cheek? What if the outcome of the whole thing goes against your perspective? How will you respond? Will you clap back or will you walk the extra mile with an enemy?
*Note this does not mean you do not speak up for what is right- see Temptation #12
Turn the other cheek, give up your cloak, walk the extra mile
TEMPTATION #4- HIDE YOUR LIGHT
“Who cares about what’s right, when they’re tearing our country apart!” In the name of truth, justice, and what you think ought to happen with the issue, you might be tempted to let your flesh rule instead of the light of Christ. Don’t hide your light, especially in a time like this.
Let your light shine
TEMPTATION #5- FEEL CRUSHED UNDER THE LOSS
Things are dark and they may get darker. If everything collapses, you might be tempted to feel that you and the whole country have lost everything. You may also blister under the mocking, the insults, and the persecution from those with opposing views. Jesus calls us to rejoice, not because of suffering, but because He reigns.
Rejoice and be glad, your reward in heaven is great
TEMPTATION #6- FEUD WITH YOUR BROTHER OR SISTER IN CHRIST
You will likely run into other believers who disagree with you. Don’t lose sight of their identity and yours. You are family in Christ FIRST! Don’t lose the unity of the Spirit in the fight for America. Again that does not mean be silent nor fight for what is right. It means unity must be central in that fight. (See Temptation #12)
Leave your offering there at the altar, and be reconciled to your brother
TEMPTATION #7- TREASURE AN IDOL ABOVE GOD
God is our treasure, but sometimes we chase other treasures. Don’t let a rival be your treasure. Although threatened by the current unrest, your wealth and the country’s prosperity are not whom we serve. We cannot serve God and His rival. Remain faithful.
You cannot serve God and wealth
TEMPTATION #8- ELEVATE THE WRONG KINGDOM
America is a great and glorious country with a history of faults. God has blessed it mightily. But God’s kingdom is the highest kingdom. Our citizenship and devotion are there first. The temptation will be to equate America with God’s kingdom. Don’t conflate the two and certainly don’t serve America over the Kingdom of Heaven.
Seek first His kingdom
TEMPTATION #9- DEFEND YOUR SIDE TO BE NOTICED BY MEN
You may be right. You may have the right perspective, predict the future, argue for justice, and so on. But if you do those righteous deeds to be noticed by men and to seek their approval you will have no reward from your Father in Heaven. Instead, fight for your cause in order to please God.
Your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you
Matthew 6:4, 6, 18
TEMPTATION #10- JUDGE YOUR OPPONENTS
It’s tempting to judge the motives, intentions, and actions of the other side. Be careful how you judge because the same degree will be laid right back upon you. Jesus commands us not to judge others.
Do not judge so that you will not be judged
TEMPTATION #11- IGNORE YOUR OWN FAULTS AND SHORTCOMINGS
It is easy to see the faults, failures, sins, and oppressions of other people, but it is painful to look at our own problems. Don’t correct another if you have not dealt with your own issues first.
First take the log out of your own eye
TEMPTATION #12- AVOID NECESSARY CONFLICT
Plenty of conflict is dangerous and unproductive and should be avoided at all costs. But there are other times where conflict is righteous and necessary. Some may want to avoid conflict and sit this one out. Jesus however said that after you have taken the log out of your own eye “you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” There are times when your brother needs the speck removed and you are the one to do it. Speak up (of course after the log is out of your own eye) when necessary.
Take the speck out of your brother’s eye
TEMPTATION #13- SPEND YOUR TIME AND ENERGY ON FOOLS
There are some people who are simply fools and no amount of effort, rational explanation, or offering incentives will induce them to be otherwise. When it becomes evident they are someone like this it is time to move on. Caution: Don’t be too quick to label someone a fool (see temptations 10-11).
Don’t throw your pearls before swine
TEMPTATION #14- DOUBT GOD’S GOODNESS IN THE STORM
Things may get rocky for you and your tribe. God feeds the birds, He clothes the grass with flowers, He knows how to grant good things to those who love Him. This world is filled with storms and tribulations that are not attributed to God. Therefore, don’t forget God’s goodness, His kindness, and His love towards you just because the torrent is upon you. Trust in His character and provision.
Your Father who is in Heaven [will] give good gifts to those who ask Him
TEMPTATION #15- UNFORGIVENESS
You might become severely wounded by a person or group during this ordeal. If that happens it will be tempting to hold a grudge and refuse to grant forgiveness to your offender. The Lord’s prayer reminds us that we have been forgiven much. We are in no place to receive such forgiveness from God yet not offer the same to others. Forgive.
Forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors
TEMPTATION #16- DISREGARD THE GOLDEN RULE
You all know it. You’ve been taught it. Treat others the way that you would want to be treated. This holds true even on the internet folks. Wherever you are, whomever you disagree with, treat them the way that you would want to be treated.
Do unto others as you would have them do unto you
TEMPTATION #17- BE DISTRACTED FROM THE REAL CONFLICT
Politics, the media, the crisis, etc. can be all consuming. It will be tempting to grant so much focus to the issues that you become distracted from the more important conflict, and yes, there is a more important conflict. Jesus said there is a narrow road that leads to life but few find it. Many of those who end up on the broad road that leads to destruction will have been too distracted by the things of this world to notice which path they were on. Stay focused. Make sure you’re on the right path and that you are pointing others to it as well. The fight for truth and justice in this current crisis flows from the Gospel, not separate from or superior to it.
Enter through the narrow gate
TEMPTATION #18- LISTEN TO THE WOLVES
Many will come to you claiming to be on the side of truth, goodness, and well-being, but inwardly they seek destruction, intentionally or unintentionally. Keep your eyes open for the wolves and give them no shelter, even if they present themselves as righteous and just.
Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves
TEMPTATION #19- ALLOW WICKED INFLUENCES
The eyes are the gateway to the soul. What they observe molds the person. If the sources you allow to influence you, whether the information you receive, the arguments you believe, the people you listen to, and so on are wicked, then the more wicked you will become. What you allow in will alter you. If you accept good influences, you will grow. If you accept bad influences, you will digress. Be careful what you allow in.
The eye is the lamp of the body… if your eye is clear your whole body will be full of light
TEMPTATION #20- MOVE ON WITHOUT APPLYING THIS WISDOM
You might be tempted to pat yourself on the back because you read all these wise warnings. But if you fail to act upon them, to do what Jesus encourages you to do, then you will not be protected from the coming trouble. You have not learned these things if you succumb to these temptations as soon as they approach. You must do what you have learned is wise for this information to benefit you.
Build your house upon the rock