Christianity and the Problem of Human ViolenceChristianity and the Problem of Human Violence: Part 36: The Three Temptations, part 2
from Guide to Kingdom Living

True Christian living requires us to live according to Kingdom standards which bring Heaven to earth.

Christianity and the Problem of Human Violence: Part 36: The Three Temptations, part 2

By Stephen R. Kaufman, M.D.

Joseph Campbell, in The Hero with a Thousand Faces, describes the universal story of the hero, who leaves the community, goes into the wilderness, struggles against dangerous forces, and returns with new, divine knowledge. The Three Temptations story fits this mould, but with an unusual twist. Unlike most such hero stories, Jesusí struggle did not involve violence. Jesus overcame not a fierce beast but rather the mimetic desires that have led to violence since the beginning of human civilization. (See the previous essay.)

The version in Luke concludes, ďAnd when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time.Ē (4:13) When will this opportune time be? Jesus was most vulnerable during the Passion, when he was tempted to avoid arrest, prosecution, and persecution. Jesus, in rejecting the three temptations in the desert, was now prepared to carry Godís message. But, being human, he would often meet temptations, just as we are tempted throughout our lives. Indeed, the Lordís Prayer includes the request, ďlead us not into temptation.Ē

An important implication of this story is that it teaches that mimetic desire is not bad. This is fortunate, because, once our most fundamental biological needs are met, all of our desires are mimetic (see part 2). We are not told to resist mimetic desire, which we humans would find impossible, but rather we are told to not derive our desires from fellow humans. When we do that, we engender rivalry and resentment, and eventually hostility and violence. Instead, we should mimic Christ, who derived his own mimetic desires from God rather than from other people, as our human model. If Jesus did not have a human nature, then we might find him an impossible model. But, this story relates that Jesus had a human nature and he was therefore susceptible to human mimetic desires. However, his faith inspired him to have his mimetic desires reflect Godís desires instead.

In Matthew, the story concludes, ďbehold, angels came and ministered to him.Ē I think this shows Godís care and concern. But, if this were so, how can we reconcile Godís care for Jesus with Godís apparent abandonment of other faithful people? When faithful people die young or suffer, where is Godís protective hand? This question recalls the story of Job, which we will explore in later essays.

Go on to: Part 37: The Beatitudes (Mt 5:3-12, Lk 6:20-38) part 1: The Meek Shall Inherit the Earth
Return to: Christianity and the Problem of Human Violence Table of Contents
Return to: Christian Living Table of Contents