God gave His best to save us ... The least we can do is avoid sin ...
This seems to be a pretty straightforward admonition. It also presents itself so invitingly simple that it seems so easy enough to do. Until, of course, we try to do it, for it is not as simple as it seems. It is not just a battle with our self, and even that is already a great battle in itself. Sin is a warfare waged in the spiritual realm and the battleground does not divide men against men but splits right smack in the middle of every man’s heart and soul.
In a recollection that I attended years ago, our recollection master who was a priest presented the following diagram to us. The diagram and the lessons it presented and represented have remained with me through the years.
The grids above represent the combination of choices that we may be faced with in the course of our daily life. The check mark at the intersection of “GOOD” and “EASY” means that we have no problem in that area. If we know something is good and it is easy to do, we will not hesitate to do it. The X mark at the intersection of “BAD” and “DIFFICULT” also means that we don’t have a problem in that area. If we know something is bad and it is difficult, i.e., it will just make us feel miserable, it will inconvenience us, etc., then surely we will not do it.
It is in the other two areas where we may be tempted and encounter tests of our morality. We know that something is good but it inconveniences us to do it. We don’t feel comfortable subjecting ourselves to an activity even though we know it is good. There are hurdles that prevent us from doing something that is good and so we hesitate or maybe even just decide not to do it at all. So we drag and dilly-dally and we end up not doing it at all.
It is the fourth one that presents us the greatest challenge. We know that something is bad and yet it seems so easy to do it. Moreover, it is pleasurable, we derive temporary feelings of satisfaction that greatly salves and soothes our aching spirits.
And so we succumb to it and before we know it, we are enmeshed, embroiled, entrapped, and entangled in Satan’s web of lies that sink us deeper and deeper into sin.
If we let ourselves be brought to a situation where we may be tempted, half the battle is already lost. Once we are in a tempting situation, it would be so easy for the devil to entice us with all sorts of rationalizations. Sometimes we may even find ourselves rationalizing too.
There are four basic rationalizations that can slowly drag us inner and inner into the vicious cycle of spiraling sin.
“Just once (Minsan lang).” – This is the entry level rationalization. Because we have not yet allowed ourselves the experience of sin, the devil will try to convince us to just give it one try. Soon we too will be mouthing the same enticing mantra: “Just once, I will try it just this once and after this, no more.”
“This is the last time (Huli na ‘to).” – Once we have tried it “just once”, there is an even greater tendency to try it again. Every time that we do, we will try to convince ourselves that “it is the last time.”
“Nobody will know (Wala namang makakaalam).” – Because we are not anymore capable of breaking away from the recurring dalliances to the “occasion of sin”, we will now try to rationalize away the searing pangs of guilt. Nobody has to know, nobody will ever know, and I can forever keep this a secret.
“Everybody’s doing it anyway (Ginagawa naman ng iba).” This is the worst part of it all. At this point we are completely oblivious to the cries of our conscience and we go with the tide and proclaim “Everyone’s doing it. Why can’t I?”
And before we know it we are already enmeshed in sin, slowly engulfing us like quicksand.
Since the entry level is that temptation to try it just once, the key to avoiding it altogether is to know one’s self. Knowing one ’s self means being aware of your limitations so that you avoid getting into situations that can be possible occasions for sin. It means not allowing yourself to be brought into a circumstance where you know you will not be able to turn back from. It means keeping your spirit at an advantageous position against your flesh. All too often we hear “The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak,” and we should help our spirit not succumb to the weaknesses of our flesh.
But of course, the greatest weapon to ward off temptation is prayer. Prayer is putting your spirit at God’s disposal. Prayer is surrendering your flesh to a greater power. Prayer is keeping your temptations at bay. The workings of our mind are quite complicated but a simple prayer can calm the swirling vortex of an active mind luring us to carnal desires. In Chronicles 4:9-10, Jabez prays “and that You would keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain.”
Our Lord Jesus Christ has given us the most powerful prayer and the Lord’s prayer ends thus “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”