What NOT to do when we’ve given in to Temptation: A Lesson from Adam and Eve
Temptation is something that we all experience throughout our lives. It happens simply because we have the free will to choose to do the wrong thing. If we didn’t have free will, then we’d be like machines and just do what we’re meant to do all the time and then there would be no point for us to be tempted. However, as humans, that’s not the case and so, as long as we have free will, we’re going to experience temptation all throughout our lives.
One thing that we often do automatically when we’ve given in to temptation but should NOT do is to back away from God. It’s an understandable reaction because we feel ashamed or embarrassed but it is at this point that, rather than hiding away from God, we need to run even more towards God.
We see this in the account of Adam and Eve that, after eating the forbidden fruit, they hid themselves away from God:
The man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and t
hey hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden (Gen 3:8).
In the original Hebrew, it says that Adam and Eve covered themselves from the face of God. The hiding is the first thing that God asks of Adam (and not about the eating of the forbidden fruit). The first question that God asks Adam is “Where are you?” and not “Have you eaten of the forbidden fruit?” Adam’s answer to God’s first question avoids the real reason why he is hiding (I was afraid because I was naked, so I hid) and so Adam hides his sin if he can’t hide himself. It’s only at this point that God brings up the issue of the sin itself.
From Adam and Eve, we learn that the wrong thing to do when we’ve given in to temptation is to hide from God. What they should have done is to ask God for help or, better yet, to ask for God’s forgiveness. Notice how Adam and Eve don’t even think of asking God for forgiveness and this separates them further away from God.
When Jesus came, one common comment made about Jesus was that he was always dining with sinners. In this, Jesus shows in a very concrete way what God is like: Even though God does not like sin at all, God still desires, wants and loves the company of the sinner and even goes out seeking for the sinner like how the Good Shepherd does so in the parable. As God seeks out the sinner so we should seek out God when we’ve fallen into sin, no matter how shameful or embarrassing it is.
As Catholics we have a great opportunity to do this in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. There we have the chance to do the total opposite of what Adam and Eve did when they committed that first sin. In the Sacrament of Reconciliation, we come out of hiding and tell God openly and frankly our sins and, whatever sins we confess, God forgives us as long as we are sorry for those sins. We no longer have any reason to hide from God because of our sins because, through hearing the words of absolution from the priest, we know that our relationship with God is restored and strengthened.
It’s never easy or pleasant to face the part of ourselves we’d rather hide or admit the actions that we’d rather forget but God wants to take us warts and all and even to remove those warts if we ask God to no matter how big, old or embarrassing they are. God can do that because of how powerful God’s love, mercy and forgiveness is. Lent is a time for us to work on our relationship with God (1) through experiencing afresh how much we need the strength of God’s grace in our lives through the various disciplines we take up for Lent and (2) through experiencing the power of God’s love, mercy and forgiveness in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. There is no sin big enough or old enough or stubborn enough that God can’t forgive.
Pope Francis says that it is us who are the ones who actually get tired of asking for forgiveness, God never ever gets tired of forgiving us. That’s how big, great and deep God’s love is and it’s worth taking the risk to experience it in Reconciliation. We’ve got nothing to lose except our sins.