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desire or deny

Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil. And he ate nothing during those days. And when they were over, he was hungry.            Luke 4: 1-2


The "Yes, Prime Minister" BBC series was the first to draw attention to the use, the widespread use, actually - of irregular verbs in English. These verbs change significantly depending on whether they are being used after "I" or after "you" or after "he".

Take something (as the BBC did) like the making public of confidential government papers. That irregular verb would go: I leak; You disclose; He blows wide open.  

Or the verb about being untruthful: I fudge; You evade; He tells lies. 

And the verb about desire: I wish; You want; He craves.

When it comes to desire, Jersey, in common with most of Western civilisation (or, perhaps, in advance of it because of Jersey's economic success) shows evidence of some ingenuity. New things to desire appear at every turn and claim our attention.

Houses and cars dominate the advertising pages of the JEP. Several local "lifestyle" glossies compete to foster desire for more expensive things that are, of course, available. Less obvious in fostering desire is the unconnected use of sexual attraction to sell something that often has little to do with that. Private health insurance brochures have pictures of very attractive nurses. Travelmaker advertisements in the JEP this week promise me a lovely girl on my beach...

But when life's basics are in very short supply (as during the German Occupation of Jersey not that long ago) desire becomes terribly strong because, over and above the hunger, there is also the fear of death, the desire for survival.

Such was the testing facing Jesus Christ around AD 30 (see above). Would he perform a miracle and turn stones into bread for his own consumption in those circumstances? Or would he deny self?

On only two occasions does Mark, in his brief 48-page biography of Jesus Christ written around AD 65, use the Greek word aparneomai that is translated "deny" in that book.

During the period of his life when he spent most of his time teaching his key followers, Jesus told them that, if anyone wanted to come after him, that person must deny self, take up a cross and follow him. Deny self?

Then, very close to his criminal conviction and execution, Jesus gently told all those same key followers, "You will all fall away ...." Peter, that brash former fisherman, disputes this and Jesus says to him, "Truly, I tell you, this very night .... you will deny me three times". Peter replies emphatically, "If I must die with you, I will not deny you." 

But he did. Self took over at the time of testing. Peter could not resist self - his survival was at stake.

What do we Jersey folk do at our time of testing? Like now? (Because riches are a test as well as poverty.) As one of the most economically successful jurisdictions in the economically successful Western world are we still focussed on desire? Actually, is it possible to resist desire and self in any meaningful way? Is it possible to deny self?

Here is an irregular verb to use when explaining failure to deny self: I look after myself: You take care of yourself; He serves himself.  

And an irregular verb about denying Jesus Christ, to use when explaining failure openly to follow him: I am silent but people see how I live; You do not waste your words needlessly; He never speaks about Jesus Christ.

We often desire most what we ought not to have.' (Anon.)
‘Whatever moves the heart wags the tongue.' (C T Studd, Christian Missionary to China, India and Africa whose motto was "If Jesus Christ is God and died for me, then no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for him.")
Richard Syvret

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