Ashley, John, and Tiger and temptation.

“Go on, nobody will find out. We can sneak into this hotel room, close the door, and I’ll sneak out again later. Nobody needs to find out. It’ll be fun. I won’t tell your wife…”

We have heard a lot about temptation recently with some much publicised celebrity transgressions. I wonder if these thoughts crossed the minds of golfer Tiger Woods, or Chelsea footballers John Terry and Ashley Cole. I’m sure, for them, it seemed worth it at the time – a lust satisfied and a bit of fun – but now, their personal reputations are in tatters as they struggle to maintain their relationships and to deal with damaging newspaper allegations.

Ashley Cole has been the subject of constant newspaper allegations for the last year which culminated last month when his wife, singer Cheryl Cole, announced that they were separating. John Terry, after details of his infidelity were published had to miss Chelsea’s FA Cup game in order to fly out to Dubai to patch things up with his wife. And Tiger Woods, possibly the most talented golfer that ever lived, has not played golf since he was discovered after crashing his car on his own drive at 3am last December. He has since admitted being unfaithful and issued a full and very public apology last week. However, In all three cases, their transgressions have damaged their sporting life, their marriages, and has undermined their credibility as a role model.

As we step into the season of lent, it is the time of the year when we remember not only Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem and the cross, but also the 40 days he spent in the wilderness at the beginning of his ministry as he faced temptation from the Devil. (See Matt 4:1-11 or Luke 4:1-13.)

Jesus has been fasting and praying in the wilderness for 40 days, so in the first temptation the Devil simply encourages him to eat something. “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread” (Matt 4:3).

The Devil’s second suggestion tempts Jesus to take some short cuts in his ministry by doing something spectacular. “‘If you are the Son of God’ he said, ‘Throw yourself down [from the temple]’” (Matt 4:6).

These are much more than simple temptations to do a particular thing. Immediately before his time of fasting, praying and temptation, Jesus was baptised. During the baptism, the Holy Spirit decended upon him and a voice from God was heard saying “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased” (Matt 4:17). The Devil then begins his tempting by saying “If you are God’s son….” So these are temptations for Jesus to step away from and undermine the person that he is and from his role as Messiah and Saviour.

These temptations of Jesus go right to the heart of every human temptation that we or anyone else has ever faced. They are not so much nudges towards a particular indiscretion, but a temptation to step away from the role that God has defined for us. For Christians, the tempter wants us to undermine our roles as God’s children. To us, the Devil might put subtle temptations in our way – “If you are God’s children, he won’t mind you cheating on tax forms” or “Surely God won’t mind an illegal short cut to a noble end?”. Or even “If you are forgiven by Jesus, surely a little bit extra sin won’t matter?” In these, the devil is trying to lure us away from the path of holiness and servanthood and to disown our loving and Heavenly Father.

Each time Jesus responds to temptation, he overcomes it by quoting scripture. Jesus knows what the life of God’s son should look like and we too can know what the life of a follower of Jesus should be like. It is all outlined for us in scripture and we find strength for this way of life in Christian community.

Tiger Woods, John Terry, and Ashley Cole will probably rebuild their careers, win more trophies and make more money. Tiger Woods and john Terry may even rebuild their marriages (lets hope they do and remain faithful), although it all seems to late for Ashley and Cheryl now. But for all of them, rebuilding a reputation will take a lot longer.

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