Desert Wisdom: Hope in Temptation

It will surprise many of us to learn that the early Christians actually welcomed temptation, and drew hope from it.

Cyrus of Alexander put it this way, “If you are not tempted, you have no hope; if you are not tempted, it is because you are sinning” (DF, 5:5).

The desert mothers and fathers considered temptation to be a sign that the soul was still trying to resist.  To feel no temptation was to have consented in the spirit, even if you hadn’t consented yet in the body.  They gave this counsel in relation to lust, but it applies equally to any kind of temptation.

This is an interesting view, and an important one.  I remember visiting a leprosarium in India.  The doctor there told us that leprosy is most dangerous when it has killed the nerve endings, and persons can no longer tell if their hand is in the fire or being otherwise damaged.  As long as there is some feeling, there is hope.

That’s the view of our early Christian brothers and sisters.  They never prayed to lose the ability to be tempted, but only prayed for grace to be able to resist it.  It has never been considered sinful to be tempted.  Hope is always present in struggle.

About Steve Harper

Retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 42 books. Also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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