How is it transmitted? How serious is it? How can we avoid catching it? Can you catch it, or do we all have it from birth? I’m talking, of course, about the disease of bad behaviour, the disorder that results in the rejection of even loving authority – or what the Bible just calls ‘sin’.
The standard view in our culture is that this disease is caught. That’s why we try to isolate children from bad influences and to shield them from unhelpful friends. It’s why we think that a good environment should produce good people. But the older view was that this deadly disease is in us all at birth, even from conception. That’s what the Bible teaches: “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.” (Psalm 51:5)
What you believe about the source of human wrongdoing will affect your response to the current deep disagreements over politics, race and Coronavirus. If all people are born good but some get corrupted then we will be angry at those who have allowed themselves to be duped by ‘selfish politics’, ‘blind prejudice’ or ‘ridiculous responses to the virus’. But if we are all born sinners then my criticism of others is tempered by the humbling awareness that I am made of the same fallible stuff and that I too need correcting and saving from my own in-built foolishness.
If we think that children are born good then we will be distressed when they don’t manage to ‘follow their dreams’ and ‘become whatever they want to be’. But if we understand that all of us are born with this deadly disease then we will be strangely liberated from angst and shock when our children get things wrong. Instead we will understand that we must make every effort to train them to do the right thing and we will long that somehow, through someone, their future will be so much better than we, or they, deserve.