I enjoy reading stories. I can’t get enough of heroic deeds, bravery, and camaraderie.
I also love when I come across stories in mythologies that teach truth found in Scripture. I am reminded of when Paul stood before the Areopagus and quoted their own writing to them (Acts 17:26-29). He agreed that what they wrote had a measure of truth to it – they were on the right track – then moved to expound more fully on the truth to which their writings hinted.
There are two Greek myths which show a measure of truth on how Christians fight temptations to sin.
In Greek Mythology, sirens were beautiful creatures who would seduce sailors with their beauty and singing as they sailed close to shore. When an unwitting sailor was entranced by their lure, the sirens would dash them upon the rocks and then eat them. This is an excellent representation of what sin is; disguised as beauty, promising all your desires fulfilled, only to kill and eat you when you give in to what it offers.
The first story involves Odysseus. In it, both he and his men must sail past the island where the sirens dwell. As they near the island, Odysseus has his men fill their ears with wax so they could not hear the tempting call of the sirens from the shore.
But Odysseus was also curious to hear how beautiful their singing was. So to protect himself from jumping ship when he heard them, he had his men bind him to the mast of the ship and ordered them to never loose him, no matter how much he begged and pleaded.
And so they sailed past, the sailors never hearing the call, nor anything else. And Odysseus, although entranced by their call and begging and pleading for release, never broke free of the ropes to die by the sirens’ hands.
We read that, and we think, “What a great way to employ ourselves, so we do not fall into temptation.” To that end, we may close our ears to everything and bind ourselves, so we do not run after sin. On second thought, it sounds much like the asceticism Paul warned against in Colossians 2:18.
Thankfully, there is a better way in Christ alone.
In Jason and the Argonauts, Jason also passed through the treacherous sirens’ abode. But instead of following Odysseus’ example, Jason employs the musical talents of Orpheus, who played the lyre with more beauty than any other. So, while sailing past the island, they do not give in to the sirens’ call because their ears are already filled with a more beautiful sound. This, I think, is the Biblical model.
Odysseus has his men fight temptation by removing their ears from all sounds. They do not fall prey because their ears can hear nothing good or bad. However, Jason has his men’s ears filled with a superior beauty.
As Jason had his men fill their ears with a superior beauty, Christians fill our eyes, hearts, minds, and souls with the superior beauty of Christ., because it is the best sin-fighting strategy we can employ.
We are not called to walk through this world with ears deaf to any call, but to fix our eyes upon Jesus (Hebrews 2:12) because He is our supreme joy (Psalm 16:11), and our life (John 1:4).
In Ephesians 3:14-19, Paul gives an outline of what God does in us so that we are “filled with all the fullness of God.” When temptations come, the Lord means for us to be so filled with Christ that we see sin for the ugliness and separation from God it is, and true beauty and satisfaction in Christ alone.
We can boldly sing with the hymnist that, “the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.” Jason was not alone in listening to the beautiful music. We are called to glorify Christ with a community of believers as we proclaim to one another the riches of God’s glory in Christ (Hebrews 10:25). Second, Jason trusted that Orpheus’s playing was of more beauty than the sirens’ song.
Just as Jason trusted that the beauty of Orpheus’s lyre was more than the beauty of the sirens’ song, so we know and trust that the treasures of Christ (Colossians 2:3) are of more beauty and value than any passing temptations that come our way.
We can wholeheartedly echo Paul when he wrote in the final chapter of his second letter to Timothy that, no matter what trials and temptations we face, “The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into His heavenly Kingdom. To Him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.”