This piece was also featured as a nationally syndicated column with the USA Today Network.
If Jesus came back, I think he would return as the late, great Hank Aaron.
It seems like the perfect fit, as they experienced and valued many of the same things. Like Jesus, Hank loved children, and he cared for them through his extensive philanthropic work. Thanks to hatred and racism, Hank experienced deep pain, shame, and suffering, as did Jesus. They also had a shared philosophy—a common way of approaching the world. Hank explained it this way: “My motto was always to keep swinging. Whether I was in a slump or feeling badly or having trouble off the field, the only thing to do was keep swinging.” That’s exactly how Jesus lived his life—he just kept swinging.
One of the best examples of this can be seen in how Jesus responded when he was tempted by the devil. After his baptism, Jesus went into the desert, where he fasted alone for forty days. There, the devil chose to show up with various temptations.
Ain’t that how it goes? The devil never picks a fair fight. He could have shown up in the moment of Jesus’ greatest power, at his baptism when God announced, “This is my beloved in whom I am well pleased.”
But no. He waited until Jesus was alone, hungry, and vulnerable, then struck him with temptations, like food, drink, ego, and power, that played on core human weaknesses.
I understand a bit about how Jesus must have felt. Perhaps, you do, too. My demons always seem to show up around 3AM, that vulnerable time when all of life’s problems seem magnified as if through a giant NASA telescope. In those susceptible times when the devil pounces, we have three choices: run, give in, or keep swinging
Running is never a good plan. When you hide or pretend the demons aren’t there, you give them power. It’s kind of like an iceberg. It’s not the shiny stuff on the surface that will get you; it’s the jagged stuff underneath.
The second option is giving in. This choice may feel good in the moment, like acting on the urge to say a stinging word to someone who “deserves it” or having just one more Reese’s Cup stuffed with salty pretzels. (Have y’all had those evil things? They are the devil’s newest invention.) But everything the devil offers comes with a price. Stinging words cost relationships, and a Reese’s Cup with salty pretzels costs an extra ten pounds.
That leaves us with Option 3: keep swinging. In the same power-packed way that Hank swung a bat, Jesus swung scripture. With every temptation, Jesus kept swinging the same response, over and over: “It is written . . . .”
Jesus didn’t run from the devil. He didn’t give in to the voices. He stared down the devil by standing on the word.
We can do the same. Whatever the devil throws at us, we can swing back with the word of God. Is the devil tempting you with an urge to say a stinging word? Swing back with Psalm 141:3: “Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips!”
Is the devil tempting you with just one more Reese’s Cup stuffed with salty pretzels? Swing back with 2 Timothy 1:7: “For God gave us a spirit not of fear, but of power, love, and self-control.”
What demons are you staring down?
What weaknesses are they attacking?
Like Jesus, we are God’s beloved in whom God is well-pleased, but we can’t live into that blessing when the devil is screaming in our head.
Stare down your inner demons by standing on the word. Just keep swinging, and eventually, as with Jesus, the devil will flee, and the angels will come flying to your aid.