Nature, Nurture, and Your Nasty Hearty

by Joseph Franks

In the book of Ezekiel, many of the Israelites had heard the Lord’s condemnation, seen the Lord’s wrath, and felt the Lord’s severe hand of discipline, but still they were inclined to disregard God’s Law. Life in Babylon had not cured what ailed them. They were still masters of sin, and Ezekiel was charged with delivering hard sermons to their dull heads.

And in chapter 18, the prophet presents their response:

The word of the Lord came to me: “What do you mean by repeating this proverb concerning the land of Israel, ‘The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge’?     (Ezek. 18:1-2)

According to them, it was not their fault they lived in sin. It was not their fault they remained engaged in idolatry. No, instead of looking within and seeing sin reigning supreme in their own hearts, they looked back at their parents, and there they placed the blame.

And to this line of thinking, the Lord responded:

As I live, declares the Lord God, this proverb shall no more be used by you in Israel. Behold, all souls are mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is mine: the soul who sins shall die.     (Ezekiel 18:3-4)

Through his prophet, God made one point clear to his rebellious congregation: Each individual is judged by his own heart. Ezekiel’s continued response tells the unrighteous son of a righteous father to expect harsh discipline. And the righteous son of an unrighteous father should expect the tender mercy of the Lord. Anyone. regardless of parental influence, who repents of his sin will find mercy and grace. Anyone, regardless of parental influence, who steadfastly pursues wickedness will be punished.

Peter Hubbard recently wrote a book entitled, Love Into Light. In this book on how the church should love those struggling with same-sex attraction, he gives his assessment of the “nature vs. nurture” debate. In summary, it is not that helpful to determine whether the foundation of one’s same-sex passions come from genetic tendencies or environmental pressures. One’s genes, one’s parents, and one’s culture all have great potential to negatively influence an individual. However, for the individual who finds new life in Jesus Christ, he is no longer enslaved to the temptations of the world, the flesh, and the Devil. He is not in bondage to nature or nurture. Whether he has a biological tendency to engage in homosexual sin, heterosexual sin, or some form of substance abuse; or whether he has been nurtured by his culture to engage in hoarding, polygamy, narcissism, profanity, bigotry, and murder; his heart is set free by Christ, and through the power of the Holy Spirit he can progressively walk in victorious obedience.

That being said, it is not only those struggling with same-sex attraction who seek to blame their sin on nature or nurture:

  • How many of us blame our sin on God and the way he allowed us to be formed in the womb?
  • How many of us blame our sin on our parents and their dysfunctional way of bringing us up in the world?
  • How many of us blame our sin on our parents and their failure to be around and fulfill their responsibilities?
  • How many of us blame our sin on some legalistic institution that hid the Gospel behind extra-biblical rules and regulations?
  • How many of us blame our sin on the wicked culture that surrounds us?
  • How many of us blame our sin on some dysfunctional church that should have ministered more effectively?
  • How many of us blame our sin our spouse?
  • How many of us blame our sin on our chemical imbalance?

All of these factors are real. We are indeed persistently influenced by our world, our flesh, and the Father of Lies. But with every temptation to sin there is a way of escape given to the believer in Christ. So quit blaming nature. Cease focusing on nurture. Instead, look within and see your nasty heart. Repent of your sin and experience abundant life. Repent of your sin and enjoy communing with the Spirit. Repent of your sin and find victory over nature, nurture, and your nasty heart.