It seems we are all born with a clean slate, with a spotless record, right? Or are children born into this life as sinners? If so, we sin because it is automatic, as though we have no choice. Are we automatically sinners or is this something we learn over time? If we are taught to do the right thing, are we taught to sin? These questions can lead to even more questions on the topic of sin and sinning.
Scripture ‘describes’ many sinful acts, but how does it ‘define’ sin? When closely examined, we discover sin is what contrasts God’s will and purpose for life. The original sin was choosing to ignore God’s guidance. Adam and Eve accepted a perception that led them astray. (a) [see end notes for all Scriptures] Scripture defines sin, at its core, as the actions of our mind. It is our bad attitudes and wrongful intentions that result in sinful deeds.
The erroneous idea that we are born as sinners is taken from two passages in Scripture. In Romans, Paul says: “Just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned…even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam.” (b) What condition spread to all, even those who do not sin? Death! Death is defined as a ‘lack of life’. Their intimate fellowship with God was dying!
The same deathly separation is what we inherit from Adam. The above text goes on to say: “For if by the transgression of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God…abound to the many…For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned (as dominant)…through the one (Christ Jesus)…those who receive the abundance of grace…will reign in life.” (c)
The original transgression produced in all of humanity a tendency to ignore God and focus only on natural experience. Yes, we all tend to not hear or heed God’s insightful guidance, thus we really are “sinners saved by grace.” (d) This does not mean children are born sinners any more than natural birth means our intimate fellowship with God is automatic.
The other passage is from the Psalms of David: “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me.” (e) This verse comes from the chapter David wrote as a repentant response to his adultery with Bathsheba. This was not an excuse for bad behavior, as though he was born a sinner; it was an expression of his agony over his sin against God.
Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.” And Nathan said to David, “The Lord also has taken away your sin; you shall not die. (f) David’s repentant response to the light Nathan shared, kept him from the deathly separation from God’s fellowship.
The original transgression produced in all of humanity a tendency to ignore God.
Children do not automatically sin; they learn to do so by mimicking what they see and hear. Many simply follow the wanderings of their own mind, just as Adam and Eve did. If they had repented of their wandering minds, they would have received the forgiveness that was always in God’s heart.
Instead, their spiritual senses were dulled and their perceptions of God were skewed. Fear of God entered their reality and they tried to hide. As Adam and Eve dodged responsibility by shifting blame, they took possession of their ill perception. (g) This created separation and brought death to their intimacy with God. Removal from Garden life allowed them to experience what they chose. (h)
Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. (i)
Just like Adam and Eve, we are born into this life with the ability to choose to do the right thing or go another way. We are all prone to be and act like our parents, because they provide our first perceptions of life and of God. After all, we come from them and tend to value who they are.
Many mothers and fathers provide different examples. One may be harsh and demanding while the other tender and understanding. Children tend to swing between the two examples and choose to emulate much of what we see and hear. Children who dislike one or both decide to be different. What we chose to think and believe becomes our guiding light.
We are born into this life with the ability to choose to do the right thing or go another way.
The Prodigal Son
The story Jesus told of the Prodigal Son is indicative of all mankind. The father in the story has two sons and one decides to spend his inheritance apart from the father’s guidance. The son squanders it and becomes destitute. Repentant, he returns to his Father who welcomes him with open arms, despite his troubling past. (j)
Just like the Prodigal, our erroneous perceptions cause us to ignore the insightful fellowship of our heavenly father and our wandering minds lead us astray. What we believe, right or wrong, becomes the guide that directs us into the ways of death, or into the abundant life God offers. This prodigal represents all of us. Thankfully, God welcomes repentant children with open arms.
The mind set on the flesh ‘is’ death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace. (k)
So, are children born into this life as sinners? No! Children are born with clean hearts and slates ready to receive and be written on. Initially, adults are their first examples. What kind of mind sets, attitudes, and actions are they observing in us? Are they seeing a strength that reaches out in godly love? How much of God’s character, attitude, and personality (CAP) are we illustrating to the little ones in our lives?
Children are born into this life with clean hearts and slates ready to receive and be written on.
a) Genesis 3:6; 2 Corinthians 11:3; b) Romans 5:12-14; c) Romans 5:15-17; d) Ephesians 2:5, 8; Acts 15:11; 2 Timothy 1:9; e) Psalm 51:5; f) 2 Samuel 12:13; Psalm 41:4; g) Genesis 3:9-13; h) Genesis 3:22-24; i) Colossians 3:2; j) Luke 15:11-32; k) Romans 8:6
Keith Carroll, “The Relationship Guy”
Relational Gospel Founder