Several months ago I slowly plodded my way through Middle Earth with the likes of Frodo Baggins, Sam Gamgee, and Gandalf the Gray; Aragorn, Gimli, and Legolas too. I learned many lessons walking alongside these comrades, but one lesson stuck out. Unfortunately, it has a unique way of coming back to mind time and time again, yet unsurprisingly so. It was an insight about the nature of our sin: our disinclination toward God and his ways, and our suicidal attraction to and cooperation with Satan.
It came in a passage from The Fellowship of the Ring about Frodo reflecting on his decision to put on the Ring when the Black Riders were after him, Sam, Merry, Pippin, and Aragorn. Tolkien writes, “He bitterly regretted his foolishness, and reproached himself for weakness of will; for he now perceived that in putting on the Ring he obeyed not his own desire but the commanding wish of his enemies” (224). The circumstances that Frodo is reflecting on are helpful to keep in mind:
“[B]ut his terror was swallowed up in a sudden temptation to put on the Ring. The desire to do this laid hold of him, and he could think of nothing else. He did not forget the Barrow, nor the message of Gandalf; but something seemed to be compelling him to disregard all warnings, and he longed to yield. Not with the hope of escape, or of doing anything, either good or bad: he simply felt that he must take the Ring and put it on his finger…. He shut his eyes and struggled for a while; but resistance became unbearable, and at last he slowly drew out the chain, and slipped the Ring on the forefinger of his left hand.” (220-221)
I’m sure many, myself included, can relate to similar moments in life when the temptation of the evil one felt so compelling, luring us to disregard all reason and caution. The insight I took from these passages, however, was this: when we sin we are following the enemy’s will; we are playing into his hand, doing just as he would have us do.
Among the many descriptions sin is given in the Scriptures (e.g. whoredom, missing the mark), I find this one particularly powerful. Rather than submitting to our loving and gracious master and friend, Jesus, we wantonly give ourselves over to the enemy and do his bidding. Much like Judas, the betrayer of our Lord, we forsake him for the most trivial of things: be it thirty pieces of silver or sin’s deceitful promise of pleasure, which, in fact, also brings guilt and regret.
But there is hope for the people of God. For, as much as the enemy may prowl like a roaring lion, seeking to devour, we have a greater lion – the Lion of Judah who has destroyed the works of the devil, triumphed over him, and conquered sin and death. He came and is coming again to judge the living and the dead and to consummate his work of redemption. As new creatures in Christ, we are not what we once were, and we must not live as we once did. Therefore, in the time between, let us live as faithful servants of our Master, praying as he taught, “lead us far from temptation and deliver us from the evil one.”