As human beings, and especially in the western world, we are obsessed with choice, with freedom. This is partly why there’s nothing quite as intense as a conversation about the concept of free will, which is really one that is about moral responsibility. But there is a question within the debate that is worth exploring: are we as free as we were meant to be?
When God created the first humans, Adam and Eve, they were created good. Very good, in fact. And they were free. Truly free in a way that we can’t imagine because we aren’t. They could choose to obey God, to honor Him, to love Him. And of course, they could choose not to. So what happened? Well, they chose not to. They rebelled against their Creator by disobeying the single prohibition God had given them: not to eat of the fruit of one very specific tree. But Eve reached out, took the fruit, ate it, and gave it to her husband, who ate it too. Why? Because they both wanted to. They made a choice, and their choice doomed us all.
The story of humanity changed radically in that moment. No longer were humans “very good” by nature. Instead, our nature was twisted and distorted by Adam’s sin, to the point that the Bible says the very inclination “of the human heart is evil” (Gen. 8:21). This is the default mode of the human heart. When presented with the choice to sin or not to sin, we’ll always choose to sin. It’s our bent, our inclination. We are enslaved to it (Rom. 6:17).
Now, here’s where things get really twisted: we don’t sin just because we don’t have a choice not to sin; we sin because we love sin. That’s what Jesus says outright in John 3: “People loved darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil” (John 3:19). So we sin and we keep on sinning because ultimately it’s what we love to do most of all. We don’t want to do what’s right because we love nothing else like we love what’s wrong in God’s sight.
This is the ugly truth the Bible reveals. We are not free the way we think we are. We are enslaved to sin. We love that which enslaves us.
And this is why we need Jesus. Only He can free us from our bondage, our enslavement to sin. By faith in Jesus, we are given what the Bible calls “clean” hearts, hearts cleansed from the stain of sin and capable of loving light rather than darkness. Hearts that are, through the Holy Spirit’s power, capable of choosing to do what God commands because He is what we love most of all. In Christ, we find the freedom Adam desired that led to his disobedience. In Christ, we find the freedom we desperately need.