Imagine a young man talking with his fiancé as the wedding day approaches and informing her, “Hey, babe, I really love you, and I don’t want you to hear this the wrong way, but there’s something you need to know. Every night I spend about an hour looking at pornography online. I hope you’re okay with that – it’s something I’ve done for as long as I can remember. Guess I was just born that way.”
How do you think the bride-to-be should respond?
Or consider a woman caught in an adulterous affair outside of her marriage. Her husband, who’s been completely faithful to her, feels devastated. Remorsefully the wife looks at her husband and says, “Honey, please don’t take this personally. I love you, but I’ve never been a one-man kind of woman. I think our marriage is great, but sometimes, you know, I enjoy the company of other men. Sorry, but I suppose I was just born that way.”
Does that make sense?
We could think of other scenarios: A compulsive gossip; someone given to uncontrollable fits of anger; a person consumed with jealousy over the professional success of coworkers; an individual caught up with envy (what the Bible calls “coveting”) over a friend’s much bigger, far more expensive house or luxury car; an able-bodied man with no initiative who refuses to seek a job; someone whose pattern of dishonesty makes it virtually impossible to know if or when he’s telling the truth.
Should we give any of them a pass when they offer the excuse, “I was born that way”?
Frankly, every one of us could use that rationale to explain objectionable behavior. After all, the Bible says, “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me” (Psalm 51:5). This doesn’t mean the sexual act that resulted in conception was wrong. It’s stating just as parents pass along genetic heredity to their children, resulting in specific physical characteristics and traits, from the beginning of time mankind also has passed on the “sin gene” from generation to generation.
Any parent knows you don’t have to teach children to become selfish. They are born that way.
Certain people are predisposed toward diseases like cancer, heart disease, obesity or alcoholism. While others are never troubled by such problems, these individuals must deal with them for much of their lives. Perhaps it’s true they were “born that way.” Should we therefore refuse to offer help or support in their desire to overcome these besetting challenges?
The vast majority of men find themselves confronting lustful thoughts, often sparked by a casual glance. They see an attractive woman, whether in a mall, on a beach, or even in church, and suddenly find themselves entertaining inappropriate thoughts about that person. Since most men are “born this way,” prone to visual provocation, does this mean it’s to be approved of, condoned, even applauded?
We could make similar observations about women, but the point is when it comes to sin – a word the Bible often uses, which many in society would like to eradicate – we all have been “born that way” in one respect or another. As Romans 3:10 declares, “There is no one righteous, not even one.” Later the Bible asserts, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).
Being unique, we all have our own assortment of pet sins and weaknesses. Our spiritual predisposition, from birth, is toward spiritual brokenness in one respect or another. So it troubles us to read passages like Philippians 2:3-4 that admonish, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than ourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” We want to respond, “Are you kidding? If we don’t look out for ourselves, our best interests, who will? Besides, I can’t help it.”
The fact is, areas of sin that afflict each of us – behaviors we’d like to shrug off and defend with, “I was born that way” – often are beyond our capacity to change. Old habits die hard, as the saying goes. But the good news, it’s not up to us alone to make the changes.
Jesus told His followers, “Apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5), and the apostle Paul – who understood human struggles as well as any – wrote with confidence, “I can do everything through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).
So whatever it is we’re wrestling with, seemingly overwhelming problems that just won’t go away, there’s hope. Hope in the life-changing, transforming power of Jesus Christ. The cliché might sound trite, but that doesn’t make it untrue. Sometimes it just requires willingness to “let go – and let God.”