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Nature vs. nurture – is there a reason we are who we are?

Are our genes or our circumstances to blame for the people we are today? Or can we take responsibility for our own lives?

Nature versus nurture is one of the oldest arguments in the history of psychology. Was I born with indwelling characteristics and traits that would manifest themselves in me and shape me, regardless of my surroundings? Or were my upbringing and environment responsible for forming me and making me who I am today?

People have discussed the issue to death and at the end of the day, it is probably some combination of the two. But why do people need an answer to this age-old question – why is there so much unrest around this topic?

God is not unfair

I believe it’s because most people don’t want to assume responsibility for who they are or what they’ve become. The criminal looks back at his father who was also a criminal and blames him for starting him down the wrong path. Or the divorced husband looks to his parents who separated while he was young to explain his own inability to love his wife.

Wouldn’t it be unfair though, if the path and outcome of our life was entirely a byproduct of our genetics and upbringing? That you couldn’t find happiness unless you had been born to the right parents and raised in the right community, etc.? If that were the truth, I would agree: it would be extremely unfair.

The truth is God planned a much better way, a way to happiness and peace that anyone can walk on. “Ridiculous,” you think, looking back on your life. “There were so many things out of my control that led me to become the bitter, angry person I am; there’s no way I can have lasting happiness and peace.” While it’s true that you may have encountered many situations in life you had no say in, what’s not true is that you had no say over the outcome.

Jesus is the ultimate example

Those of us who believe in Jesus Christ as the Savior and Redeemer of mankind have an amazing example of someone who emerged from life’s situations triumphant and victorious, instead of downcast and bitter. Jesus didn’t have it easy either; born in a stable and raised as the poor son of a carpenter. Isaiah 53:2-3 describes the eventual Messiah as “having no form or comeliness; and when we see Him there is no beauty that we should desire Him. He is despised and rejected by men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.” Given His background and treatment, wouldn’t it have been fair, and even expected, for Him to respond with coldness, anger, and bitterness towards the world; to become unloving and withdrawn?

Such human understanding and “reasonable” thoughts met their end in Jesus. Though He was tempted to react to His situations like all the generations of man before Him, He cried out in need to His Father with “vehement cries and tears” to save Him from sin, and was given power from God to respond to His situations in ways like no one before Him ever had. (Hebrews 5:7-8) He came into situations where there was despair and instead of becoming discouraged and unbelieving, He responded with hope and faith. He met mockery and scorn with love and forgiveness. (1 Peter 2:21-24) He waged such fervent battle to break free from the cycle of human understanding that He could preach the words we read in Matthew 5:44 right out of His own life. “But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.”

The future can be so much greater than the past!

Is that not inspiring, does it not fill you with hope? The issue for Jesus was not in the fact that there were enemies persecuting Him and that others were spitefully using Him. The issue was in the fact that as a man He could regard them as enemies and hate them. He saw the fault in Himself and fought to respond with love and blessing, leaving behind Him an aroma of life and peace wherever He went.

Start being honest with yourself, look inwardly for answers when examining your life and its results and I think you’ll have to admit that you have the possibility to affect the outcome of your situations, that you’re not just a by-product of your genetics and upbringing. Of course, they play a role, and sometimes it can take a very hard-fought battle to break free, but all power on heaven and earth belongs to God, and that power is available to you! You can break from anything that has been a binding power in your life. The fact that you were neglected and ignored by your parents doesn’t mean you have to be cold and distant to your own son. Acknowledge that you are uncertain how to raise a child, and that self-interest may also be at the bottom of it. Cry out to God! Ask for help and wisdom to raise and love your son and then be willing to carry out whatever God reveals to you, regardless of the cost. It will require giving up something of yourself; your own time, will, and ideas, but the reward will be over and above what you could ever imagine: inner transformation, where happiness and meaning take root deep inside of you and start flowing out to those around you.

A glorious life awaits!

The apostle Paul gave his time and body to spread this gospel of transformation and writes in a letter to the church in Rome, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” Romans 8:18. All that he gave up of his time, energy, and self-will was not even to be compared to the glory of the life that was being revealed in him: a life manifesting the very virtues of Christ.

So start today! If there is a burning need in your heart to turn your life in a new direction, to start down a path of hope and possibility, uninhibited by your past, cry out to God! That’s where you will find the power you need in your situations to respond like Christ; to break the power of sin and darkness over your life. Such a heart’s cry, undivided and in burning need, is heard by God as His own laws bind Him to respond to you with an abundance of every good thing. (Deuteronomy 30:9-10) Then you’ll be able to see clearly the pathway before you and know at the end of your life the exact battles, victories, and joys that brought you there.

Key teachings

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Christ Manifested in the Flesh

For our sakes Jesus bore our sin in His flesh so that all sin might be condemned there. He was willing to do it and He did do it! The significance that this has for us is immeasurable. Read more here about all that this means for all those who truly believe in Christ Jesus as the Son of God and the Son of Man.

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