Sometimes it seems that in the process of discussion about God and faithfulness, even those of us with solid theological footing get confused about the basics. One basic that gets missed by many people is the nature of sin. We fall into thinking that behaviors that are innate to a person; part of their personality; simply reflections of who they are... that these innate behaviors must be good and not sinful because they are part of having been created in the image of God. We speak as though an action is only sinful if it is a choice that does not arise out of a person's natural inclinations. If actions arise out of natural inclinations we can be tempted to treat such actions as part of the diversity of what it might mean to be created in God's image.
However, sin is not described in this way in scripture. Rather sin is part of who we are. We don't get to chose whether or not we have sinful inclinations--we do. We all do.
Sometimes personality surveys give us such knowledge of who we are that we embrace our natural inclinations as though all natural inclinations must be okay. So the bully says, its just who I am... I speak my mind, I care about being right--you can't fault me for that. The passive-aggressive person says, I know... I don't like conflict, but I still desire to get my way, so while I may not engage in conflict in the open, I will work behind the scenes to develop the scenario I need without being openly conflictual... its just who I am.
The truth is, both are sin. To the bully, the scriptures say, "love your neighbor, turn the other cheek, etc." To the passive-aggressive, the scriptures say, "let your yes be yes and your no be no."
And they might respond... "But wait! I don't have a choice--its just who I am!" Of course it is. You don't have a choice. You are inclined toward sinful behavior. I am inclined toward sinful behavior. As Christians, this is fundamental truth--we have inherited a fallen nature, a brokenness. At our core we desire sin. Paul said, "What I want to do I do not do, and yet I find myself doing the very things I hate!" That's the way it is.
Of course we do not end there... That is not the final act of the play. Jesus told Nicodemus who came by night that the one who wants to inherit something else--the one who wants to inherit God's righteousness... God's Kingdom, "must be born from above." In Christ we experience rebirth so that our understanding of who we are can change. We are no longer defined by our natural inclinations which may include sinful desires. Rather we are defined by the power of the Holy Spirit that has been given to us to choose righteousness and life over sin and death.
It is no longer faithful to declare yourself powerless over the inclination to sin, because the old has passed away and the new has come. Therefore let those of us who call ourselves Christians not confuse natural inclinations with holiness. Rather let us bear witness to the power of Christ that regenerates so that we have the power to overcome the fall... power to choose the right... power to resist temptation/inclinations... power to know that we can choose to receive the grace that empowers us to live differently.
The nature of sin is not choice. Sin is a prison--there is no choice... its just the way things are. When we say in despair, "I have no choice" examine the situation and realize that often what we are saying is, "I can't beat the nature of sin... I have no choice but to sin."
The nature of grace is the power to choose. Grace creates options where before there were not options. Grace takes what was once inevitable and invites us to decide on a different path.