I’m Only Human
While on the radio many years ago in Louisiana, there was a show on prior to mine that was run by some religious organization that played pop-rock songs, ones that theoretically had decent lyrics expressing some truth. One of these songs had, as its chorus, “I’m only human, born to make mistakes.” Some of you might remember it. I suppose, due to the nature of the program, that this song was played in support of the Calvinist concept that a man is born depraved and sins because of this “inherited depravity.” Why do we sin? Some answer, “because we’re only human, and we were born in total depravity…” The conclusion is that we can’t help it; we were born this way. Lately, more popular songs have capitalized on this idea that we’re just “born this way,” but with a twist toward deeper perversions. The “born this way” mantra likely will not end any time soon. After all, if we really have no choice in the matter, how can we be blamed, and how can it really be wrong? Does that mean God programmed these things into us?
Even among those who reject Calvinism or “total inherited depravity,” we hear smatterings of this kind of concept: that we sin because we’re only human. It’s as if we are excused for our actions because, after all, we’re only human, and it’s not our fault. This, however, generally minimizes the problem of sin as a whole. Almost as if we can shrug it off. “I’m only human. We all do it. What’s the big deal?”
Whose fault is sin? If we are not responsible for sin ourselves, that leaves God as the one to blame. God created us; he made us human. He created us in his own image and gave us our bodies. While it is true that we are “only human,” does it then follow that this is the reason why we sin and we shouldn’t be so hard on ourselves?
If we sin because we are “only human,” have you ever wondered if the angels that sinned (2 Pet 2:4) might say, “We’re only angels.” Perhaps some of them might argue that they inherited a “sinful angel nature” and could not help it. Does that seem absurd? Perhaps, but the fact that the angels could sin shows that sin is not limited to the human flesh. There has to be more going on here.
Why do we sin? In a nutshell, we sin because we choose to. Man does not have to sin in some deterministic sense. Man is not made with a built in mechanism that says, “It is time for your daily sin. You must do it.” We choose to allow our own evil desires to take us in that direction (Jas 1:13-15). Sin is a result of making the wrong choice, not having no choice. God created us with free will. We are not robots programmed to behave a certain predetermined way whether we want to or not. We are creatures of choice with the ability to decide how we are going to behave. There may be many issues that factor into those choices and affect the way we think, but how we act is still up to us. When we have no control over our actions, then we know that there is some other problem at work (e.g., a medical or physical problem). At that point, we seek additional help to find out what is wrong.
Though man is not born with an inherited sinful nature, the Bible does declare, “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23). No mere man can claim sinlessness (1 Jn 1:8), and we do acquire or become “by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind” (Eph 2:1-3). This does not mean God makes us do it or that we are not responsible; it means that all who are “only human” have chosen to sin. The question that the Bible addresses has to do with taking care of that sin. The answer is Jesus Christ — his death, burial, and resurrection (1 Cor 15:3,4) — which in turn gives us hope of eternal life by His grace if we will choose to obey the Lord (Heb 5:9).
God helps us deal with temptation as it comes upon us (Heb 2:18). “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it” (1 Cor 10:13; see also Jas 1:12). Does this promise sound as though we can be excused because we are “only human”? Perhaps we need to rely more on God.
There is no doubt that we are vulnerable to weakness and sin. If we will trust in God and submit fully to him, we can overcome sin and have the victory God promised to those who love him (1 Cor 15:57; 1 Jn 5:4).