The standard thinking in our society today is that we need to “accept” what we are and celebrate it. This has especially been the thinking in the LGBTQ+ community. This is the way we were born, and we should be proud of that.
Another line of thinking, this time within the Christian community, is to regard sin as being strictly what you do, say or think that is in conflict with God’s Law. The term “sinful nature” is viewed as more of a potential than something that is truly wrong.
Both lines of thinking are different than what is found in Psalm 51:5:
Surely I was sinful at birth,Psalm 51:5 (NIV)
sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
This verse speaks not of potential but of damage that exists from our conception. The passage also gives personhood to us from conception. It makes sense. What makes us human? Our distinct DNA at minimum. Most likely being human also includes having a soul (Not necessarily consciousness or a will at this point). In this passage, being sinful is a state of being not an act of will.
Without a doubt, sinfulness is usually expressed in breaking God’s Law both intentionally and unintentionally but is that a definition of sin that is broad enough to truly understand it. Is not sin ultimately everything that did not originate from God. It is the corruption of God’s creation, and humans have been corrupted from conception since Adam and Eve. Whatever the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil was, it genetically altered our first parents and that corruption passes along through the reproductive process along with other devolutionary changes. Original sin is not inherited guilt. It is inherited damage. That damage takes slightly different shape in different people.
It seems tremendously unfair. When you define sin as being willful, at least it seems fair that you are judged for it. This is more like being damaged, and what is damaged cannot enter the Kingdom of God. To be sure, though under the influence of sinful nature, we could still choose to do right, and we choose to do evil. But the point is that the way we are born is neither an excuse nor is it something to celebrate.
What can be celebrated is that God loves us despite sinful nature. The way we became sinful was not by choice. The way a person become righteous is somewhat similar. Another person’s action makes the difference (see Romans 5:12-21). Jesus pays for our sins (that could be seen as “unfair” as well). I expect that there is a certain amount of pity for humans by God that led to His plan to save us. God’s action is also motivated by a choice to love us and a desire for what we can be after we put the body made by sinful nature in the ground.
In the meantime, we struggle with the way we are born. Would a birth defect be “sin” under this definition? It is more of a consequence. A person born with some sort of genetic syndrome doesn’t have to say, “God wanted me to be this way.” They can say, “God loves me anyway”.
Sinful nature has a wide scope of negative results. We are all self-centered from birth. Some remain more so than others. We have bodily systems that can make us more prone to anger or violence. It produces drives to sexual sin, both heterosexual and/or homosexual. Every sin in the book has a sinful nature component to it. We can and should box it in with the help of the Holy Spirit. But we can’t eliminate it. The true danger is to normalize or even celebrate it, when God’s Word has identified it as sin. This walls us off from repentance and grace.
Repentance is not the same as self-loathing. Many people, including those who struggle with homosexuality, are self-loathing. We should all “hate the sin but love the sinner.” This applies to us as well as others. It is not always easy. Repentance is saying to God, “I don’t like it either”, as well as “I need Jesus.” and “I will work with You to minimize the expression of my sin.” Knowing that we are born that way and that God still loves us leaves room for self-love.
There is much at stake. God’s law is what it is. There is no changing the way we were born. But if we understand sin and understand God’s plan, we can be blessed with God’s mercy and still love ourselves even as we fight the results of sinful nature.