If we are sinful by nature and can’t help it, then how can God hold it against us?
This is a question I’ve seen come up a lot in online discussions about the Christian faith, and I’ll be honest with you: I’ve struggled with that question myself. But I think, with God’s help, I’ve come to understand it.
God knows our sinful nature and he gave us the responsibility to fight it – but not on our own, because on our own we will fail. In his love and mercy God has provided us not just with a way to be forgiven (as if that in itself isn’t amazing enough) but also with the help we need for living a better life, fighting our sinfulness and overcoming it. When we put our faith in Jesus and are born again through God’s Spirit, we receive forgiveness and a clean slate but it doesn’t stop there: we also receive God’s Spirit, who comes to live in us and guide us and help us to live the right way from now on.
So, you see, God has provided us with the means to fight our sinfulness. Saying “we can’t help sinning” is ignoring God’s offer. It’s as though a toddler would refuse to wear the bib that his mother wants him to use, and then say: why are you telling me off for making a mess of my clothes? I can’t help it! The answer is: you can’t help it on your own, but you can help it – if only you would let go of your prideful insistence on doing everything in your own strength.
What God holds against us isn’t primarily a list of the various wrong things we’ve thought, said or done – it’s our rebellious attitude which says, teenager-style: I don’t need you, I’m going to do things my way.
True repentance means we acknowledge that yes, we do need God and our way just doesn’t work. It means we humble ourselves before the one who made us and who knows us inside out and who loves us so much that he was willing to send his one and only son to die so that we can avoid the punishment we all deserve – in the face of such grace, how can we keep insisting that he isn’t fair? He is more than fair – he is super generous. It’s up to us to let go of our sinful, rebellious pride and accept his generous offer. That’s all it takes – if you haven’t done it yet, do it now before it’s too late.
Jesus said: I am the way, the truth and the life. Nobody comes to the Father except through me. You can spend your life quarrelling with God about that, as though we humans are in any position to argue with the one who made us – or you can accept his abundantly generous offer, admit your deep need, and start living a new life with God’s help. It is the best decision you could ever make. God is faithful, and his lovingkindness is amazing. Please don’t let your pride get in the way of you experiencing God’s grace for yourself.