Acting from the Heart
For those of us old enough to remember, the comedian Flip Wilson popularized the phrase, “The devil made me do it.” This quip blames the devil for our actions, but in reality, the devil cannot make us do anything. We have the freedom to choose how we will act in any situation.
We experience temptations from outside ourselves, but we act from our hearts. When we give in to temptations, we don't do so because we're forced to give in, but rather because our hearts are in the wrong place. We act from the interior thoughts that Jesus mentions when he speaks to the Pharisees and scribes in Mark 7: “unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly. All these evils come from within and they defile.” (Mark 7:21-23)
We sin when we choose temptations and ourselves over God’s desires for us, love for God, and love for neighbor. When we follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit and live the gifts of the Holy Spirit (wisdom, knowledge, counsel, fortitude, understanding, piety, fear of the Lord), however, we exemplify the fruits of the Holy Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, generosity, self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23) It is up to us to decide and choose. We have the responsibility to choose God’s way or give in to the temptations of the devil and our own ego.
As the Israelites lived according to the statutes and decrees God gave them through Moses, they would become conduits radiating God’s light to the nations, drawing nations to God. When we follow God’s way, listening to the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we will radiate God’s light to others, drawing them into God’s love and mercy. We emanate God’s light, love, and mercy not only through our words, but also – and more importantly – through our actions. Ultimately, our expression of faith is pure and undefiled when we care for those who cannot care for themselves, the most vulnerable among us, and follow the way of God rather than giving in to temptations and ego.
So we have a decision to make: Will we listen to and allow our egos to give in to temptations, or will we choose the way of the love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, generosity, and self-control of the Spirit of Christ? If we want to choose the way of Christ, we must cultivate the gifts of the Holy Spirit: wisdom, knowledge, counsel, fortitude, understanding, piety, and fear of the Lord through prayer and acts of loving service to others.