A succession of moments


Written by ANDRÉE SEU

August 2, 8:40 AM

I thought to myself: How can it be that the temptations of Jesus in the wilderness (Luke 4) were real temptations with any teeth when Jesus had just come from the scene at the Jordan, armed with a fresh confirmation of his Father’s pleasure and the Voice and the Dove from heaven? I was tempted to think: Even I wouldn’t fall for the wiles of the devil when still basking in the afterglow of all that.

Then I remembered something that the director of L’Abri in Switzerland said to me nearly 40 years ago when I belligerently asked how Christians can have doubts if they are supposedly convinced of the gospel. Jim answered, “Life is a succession of moments.” It was all he said, and I thought it brilliant (though I didn’t let on at the time).

His response rang true with my deepest experience of myself as a person who, from one moment to another, was a chooser. The Spirit had done the pre-evangelistic work in me, showing me that bondage and free will, while problematic on the philosophical level, coexist without problem on the level of my experience. For example, I was in slavery, in those days, to my food appetites, but at the same time I perceived that every instance that I put food in my mouth I was choosing it freely: I was the chooser. Free choice and bondage of the will (Romans 7).

Jesus’ temptations in the wilderness were no chimera. He was, though the Son of God, also “the Man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5). And as such, He inhabited our human dimensions of time and space. For Jesus the man, as it is for us, each new moment thrust itself upon Him with a choice: Shall I believe the Word of the Father, or shall I not? Yesterday’s glorious answer to prayer tends to fade from view and to be challenged by this moment’s temptation to lean to disbelieve. Israelites in the desert, their feet still damp from the Red Sea, are now building a golden calf.

The implications for me are sobering: Jesus must be chosen every moment. I cannot live this morning on last night’s grace.