"...to the test."
"Then the Devil took Jesus to Jerusalem, the Holy City, set him on the highest point of the Temple, and said to him,
If you are God's Son, throw yourself down, for the scripture says,
God will give orders to his angels about you;
they will hold you up with their hands,
so that not even your feet will be hurt on the stones.
But the scripture also says,
Do not put the Lord your God to the test." (Matthew 4:5-7)
Monday I drove across our state to give a seminar on "teen depression" for teachers and staff in Grant County. On the way I passed one of our state's scenic wonders, a formation known as Seneca Rocks. The formation is actually part of a crest of rocks that protrude from the top of the rolling mountains for several miles. In places the rocks resemble the stony plates on the spine of a Stegosaurus dinosaur, while at others their parallel lines create an eerie sense of a dilapidated Wall of China. When I paused in my drive to take in the beauty of the scene I couldn't help but think about the lesson from Matthew above, part of the story of the temptation of Jesus. As I drove I found myself pondering Jesus' admonition, "Do not put the Lord your God to the test."
I remember being "tested" in a relationship long ago by my two year-oldish son. It was a Sunday afternoon after I had preached once at each of the three churches on the charge I served. I was lying on the sofa in the living room, recharging my brain before youth group and Bible study that evening. My head was turned so I had a clear view of the center of the room. My son toddled into the room with a glass of water. He looked straight at me, making sure that he had my attention. Then he proceeded to deliberately dump the entire glass of water right onto the carpet in front of me. My reaction was swift. (Use your imagination.) However, I truly suspect it would have been very different had he said, "Daddy will you play with me?" Now, a two year old might not be able to voice his need -- but an adult....?
It occurs to me that it's pretty risky and even sometimes dangerous to put relationships to the test in the way the Devil suggested for Jesus. It's like a form of manipulation. Think about it, instead of directly and openly relating a need or desire in a relationship one person decides to test the other -- sort of a, "If they love me they'll just know" approach. The results are often catastrophic because the one person "fails the test" usually without even knowing they were being tested. The arguments that result are convoluted and generally spiral downward into a pit of deeper hurt. Why the test and manipulation? Why not simply openly and directly discuss the need, desire, or even hurt? If fear is a factor try to start first by talking about the fear.
In healthy relationships people don't need to manipulate each other with tests. They express their needs, desires, disappointments, and hurts directly to the other so that in a spirit of trust grace might abound and relationships can grow. I know the story of Jesus' temptation in the desert has a lot of different meanings, but Monday, that's how it struck me. What's the big deal about testing -- God or even each other? It betrays the trust and integrity of the relationship and results in more hurt.
I pray that God will help me be honest, open, and direct in all my relationships. How about you?
Blessings and Peace,
Pastor, Sand Hill United Methodist Church
Boaz, West Virginia
Help save lives! For more information on my new book, "A Relentless Hope: Surviving the Storm of Teen Depression," visit www.survivingteendepression.com.
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"...to the test."