This Christmas season, like last Christmas season, the Pope is considering changing the Lord's prayer. You will remember that the Lord's prayer is comprised of the words spoken by Jesus when asked how we should pray. The Pope's comments have prompted an important discussion about temptation, sin, and the nature of God, but I think his timing and motive are suspect. The Pope posits that 'lead us not into temptation' suggests that God has a role in bringing temptation into our lives ... maintaining that it is antithetical to His divine nature. But, is it? What about Job (pronounced "Jobe")?
In the Old Testament, Book of Job, there is a conversation between God and Satan about God's faithful servant, Job. “Did you notice my servant Job?” the Lord asked. “There is no one on earth as faithful and good as he is. He worships me and is careful not to do anything evil.” (Job 1:8). Satan replied, “Would Job worship you if he got nothing out of it? You have always protected him and his family and everything he owns. You bless everything he does, and you have given him enough cattle to fill the whole country. But now suppose you take away everything he has—he will curse you to your face!” (Job 1:9-11). “All right,” the Lord said to Satan, “everything he has is in your power, but you must not hurt Job himself.” So Satan left. (Job 1:12). God gave Satan permission to test Job's faithfulness to tempt Job into abandoning his love for Him.
Remember, God placed the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:9) ... and led Jesus into the desert to be tempted by Satan (Matthew 4:1-11). What am I missing? How and why is the Pope "missing" it? But, more importantly … why does the Pope only seem to raise this during the Christmas season? It is significant because it undermines our understanding of the nature of God and the nature of our relationship with Him as our creator. God gives us free will to make our own choices. In a perfect world … we would exercise our free will choosing to subordinate it to His will for us. In the absence of temptation … there is no choice to be made and consequently no expression of sacrificial love.
When my son was little and confronted with a choice involving behaving in a considerate or loving way toward me that posed a conflict with something he wanted or wanted to do … he would ask me “what do you want me to do?” I would tell him that I want him to choose to love me and behave in a loving way toward me because he wants to … not because he has to … or because he has no other choice … because sometimes circumstances require that love be expressed through sacrifice. I would tell him that I want a loving son … not a hostage.
I suspect God feels the same way.