We all know the story of Adam and Eve. God created paradise and then created the first two humans to live in it. Upon facing their first temptation in the form of Satan’s trickery, they made a bad choice and disobeyed God. As a result of their action, paradise was lost, not just for them but for all of humanity (Genesis 2:4-3:24). To some that might have seemed like a harsh punishment for a first offense, but when we come to understand what the Word is telling us, we realize that it was not just a simple punishment. Because of the actions of Adam and Eve, humanity was tainted. We were no longer worthy of paradise because every generation after Adam and Eve has been born in sin.
Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned – Romans 5-12
Born in sin – that’s a concept discussed several times in the Bible, but what does it truly mean? Adam and Eve tasted fruit from the Tree of Good and Evil. Good, evil, and sin are words we toss around a lot within the Faith, but do we really understand what they mean?
Good – that which is morally right; righteousness
Evil – profound immorality, wickedness, and depravity
Sin – an immoral act considered to be a transgression against divine law
In a Christian context, anything that is of God is inherently good. Conversely, anything that is not of God may lead to evil. Any action that goes against the will of God is a sin. It follows that sins are inherently evil actions. One could then infer that being born in sin means that we come into this world with a natural tendency towards evil. Most of us probably understand this to some extent. After all, we know that children have to be taught and conditioned to do the “right thing.” From the very beginning of our lives, in many cases, our inclination is to do the selfish and self-serving things. However, leaving the explanation here is not really beneficial. It begs some reasonable questions. For example, Adam and Eve committed their actions a long time ago. Why should we still be on the hook for their actions?
Let’s take a step back and consider one of the greatest gifts given to us by God. Many call it “Free Will.” In truth, it is the ability to choose. God could have created us as automatons that existed only to serve him without question, but he didn’t. From the very beginning, we’ve had the ability to choose and even at the very beginning we made the wrong choice. One could argue that Adam and Eve were innocent like children. They did not understand the graveness and consequences of their actions. That is likely true. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the rest of us. Since they ate the fruit, every human after them was born with an intrinsic understanding of good and evil. When we sin, we aren’t acting out of innocence like Adam and Eve. On a fundamental level, we understand that we are acting in a way that is not of God. We know that we are actively rejecting him. When reading the Bible, we see time and time again what happens when people reject God. In response to one of the many times the Children of Israel turned against God, he said:
“You have rejected me,” declares the Lord. “You keep on backsliding. So, I will reach out and destroy you; I am tired of holding back.” – Jeremiah 15:6
God wants us to choose him, and it grieves him when we don’t. What creator wouldn’t want his creation to choose him? What creation wouldn’t choose the being that gave it life? The answer to the latter question is humanity. The Old Testament serves as proof of this. No matter what God did, whether it be interacting directly with people, giving laws for our own protection, or sending prophets to lead in his name, humans still used their ability to choose to reject God seemingly whenever the opportunity arose. What a disappointment they must have been.
What do we do to creations that fail to live up to our expectations? More often than not, we scrap them. God could have done that with us, and he came close at least once (Story of Noah – Genesis 6:1-8:22). Ultimately, he went another route, a much better route for us. He gave us Jesus.
being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: whom God set forth to be a propitiation, through faith, in his blood, to show his righteousness because of the passing over of the sins done aforetime, in the forbearance of God – Romans 3:25
He wrapped himself in human flesh to interact with us on our level, to die for us as an atonement for all the sins that had come before his coming, and to assuage God’s wrath. Jesus’ death and the advent of the Holy Spirit made a way for us to definitively choose God. Without Jesus, we’d always be inclined to use our ability to choose to reject God to some extent. However, when we make the overt and intentional choice to follow Jesus. We also make the choice to accept God and find salvation from his wrath. That choice comes with the acceptance of the finished work of Jesus.
“If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.” – Romans 10:9-10
Upon believing, we are given the Holy Spirit and become new creations in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). Our reformations aren’t always instant, but the more we indulge in our choice to follow Jesus, the greater our connection to the Holy Spirit becomes. As that connection grows stronger, we find that we naturally move away from rejecting God. The Bible tells us that ultimately, if we continue to grow, we can overcome sin.
But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. – Galatians 5:16-17
Truthfully, many of us will not make it to that point before we leave this world, but in God’s goodness, he made it so that we don’t need to be perfect to be saved. We need only choose Jesus and our salvation is ensured. That does not mean that we should not strive to rid ourselves of the urges to sin. If we truthfully choose Jesus and follow the promptings of the Holy Spirit we will constantly feel the conviction to avoid sinful acts.
We are fully responsible for our choices. Have you made the right choice, the best choice you could ever make? If so, that’s good. Many haven’t. Remember all good choices can only be made when the right information is available, so we must do our part to make sure that everyone has access to the truth. In doing so, we can help others to find salvation and honor God by ensuring that more of his creation chooses him.
Image Courtesy of childrenschapel.org