The Devil and Satan

Miroslav Satan played NHL hockey for the better part of a decade, but he never played for the New Jersey Devils.  Still, this jersey would have been kind of cool.

We get both the Devil and Satan in Sunday’s Gospel lesson for Lent 1.

devil-satanIn Matthew 4:1-11, diabolon shows up four times, satanas appears once, and a more generic term, the tempter, occurs once.  The story of Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness is fraught with personifications of evil, which is a topic that makes many an Episcopal priest itchy just thinking about.  I’m not in the itchy camp, per se, I’ve experienced too many “coincidences” in my spiritual journey to not believe that an adversary exists, but I do find the whole conversation about spiritual warfare tiring.

The tendency in conversations that deal with evil or Satan is to throw our hands up and fatalistically say, “the Devil made me do it.”  Honestly, though, that’s just a lame excuse.  We give the Devil power way beyond his pay grade.  Just look at the translations of the Greek for diabolon and satanas. Life is full of choices that have to be made, and there are forces: spiritual, moral and otherwise; that pull us in one direction or another, but in the end, every decision that we make comes down to us.  We decide whether to choose good or to choose evil, or as Moses said, “to choose life or choose death,” and the Devil didn’t make you do it.

Doubtless, many a preacher will skirt this issue, they’ll work hard to say that the Temptation story isn’t meant to be an example for us, but I just don’t buy it.  The life of faith is full of moments when we have to choose between Kingdom living or selfish living, and the clear desire of God is that we would follow the example of his Son and choose the Kingdom.

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