Matthew 6:13 NIVAnd lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.
We have thought of the attack of temptation; let us now assemble our defences against temptation.
(i) There is the simple defense of self-respect. When Nehemiah’s life was in danger, it was suggested that he should quit his work and shut himself in the Temple until the danger was past. His answer was: “Should such a man as I flee? And what man such as I could go into the temple and live? I will not go in” ( Nehemiah 6:11 ). A man may escape many things, but he cannot escape himself. He must live with his memories, and if he has lost his self-respect life becomes intolerable. Once President Garfield was urged to take a profitable, but dishonourable, course of action. It was said, “No one will ever know.” His answer was, “President Garfield will know–and I’ve got to sleep with him.” When a man is tempted, he may well defend himself by saying, “Is a man like me going to do a thing like that?”
(ii) There is the defense of tradition. No man can lightly fail the traditions and the heritage into which he has entered, and which have taken generations to build up. When Pericles, the greatest of the statesmen of Athens, was going to address the Athenian Assembly, he always whispered to himself: “Pericles, remember that you are an Athenian and that you go to speak to Athenians.”
One of the epics of the Second World War was the defence of Tobruk. The Coldstream Guards cut their way out of Tobruk, but only a handful of them survived, and even these were just shadows of men. Two hundred survivors out of two battalions were being cared for by the R.A.F. A Coldstream Guards officer was in the mess. Another officer said to him, “After all, as Foot Guards, you had no option but to have a go.” And an R.A.F. man standing there said, “It must be pretty tough to be in the Brigade of Guards, because tradition compels you to carry on irrespective of circumstances.”
The power of a tradition is one of the greatest things in life. We belong to a country, a school, a family, a Church. What we do affects that to which we belong. We cannot lightly betray the traditions into which we have entered.
(iii) There is the defense of those whom we love and those who love us. Many a man would sin, if the only penalty he had to bear was the penalty he would have to bear himself; but he is saved from sin because he could not meet the pain that would appear in someone’s eyes, if he made shipwreck of his life.
Laura Richards has a parable like this:
“A man sat by the door of his house smoking his pipe, and his neighbor sat beside him and tempted him. ‘You are poor,’ said the neighbor, ‘and you are out of work and here is a way of bettering yourself. It will be an easy job and it will bring in money, and it is no more dishonest than things that are done every day by respectable people. You will be a fool to throw away such a chance as this. Come with me and we will settle the matter at once.’ And the man listened. Just then his young wife came to the door of the cottage and she had her baby in her arms. ‘Will you hold the baby for a minute,’ she said. ‘He is fretful and I must hang out the clothes to dry.’ The man took the baby and held him on his knees. And as he held him, the child looked up, and the eyes of the child spoke: ‘I am flesh of your flesh,’ said the child’s eyes. ‘I am soul of your soul. Where you lead I shall follow. Lead the way, father. My feet come after yours.’ Then said the man to his neighbor: ‘Go, and come here no more.'”
A man might be perfectly willing to pay the price of sin, if that price affected only himself. But if he remembers that his sin will break someone else’s heart, he will have a strong defence against temptation.
(iv) There is the defense of the presence of Jesus Christ. Jesus is not a figure in a book; he is a living presence. Sometimes we ask, “What would you do, if you suddenly found Christ standing beside you ? How would you live, if Jesus Christ was a guest in your house?” But the whole point of the Christian faith is that Jesus Christ is beside us, and he is a guest in every home. His is the unescapable presence, and, therefore, we must make all life fit for him to see. We have a strong defense against temptation in the memory of the continual presence of Jesus Christ.