I recently found an article in a BBC magazine called “Knowledge” that claimed to explain sin. Basically, it said that sin was just the extrapolation of the normal impulses of our bodies. Lust was the simple desire to procreate and continue the species. Anger was the method the body used to increase energy and motivation. Even something like envy was explained by a natural inclination to desire certain characteristics and a negative disposition toward strong rivals. So, I suppose, sin is just what is programmed into us by God.
Of course, this article was supported by numerous studies that showed the particular areas of the brain that were stimulated by visual or auditory input designed to provoke the sin area. Various chemicals flowed, appropriate brain segments were activated, and other body responses could be measured. None of this is particularly surprising. We all understand the dilation of the pupils, the increase of blood pressure, the rise of body temperature—based on emotional stimulation. The body certainly does respond to sinful stimuli!
But is sin caused by the body or does the body respond in predictable or habitual ways? Were we made to feel good when we sin, or has sin found a way to program us in pleasurable ways? Understanding cause and effect is important. Perhaps it feels good to become angry and strike out simply because sin has twisted our thinking to make it feel good. There is certainly abundant evidence that wrong actions result in negative consequences. This short-term positive stimulation may be the only reason we do these hurtful things.
Paul said that sin was an active force within him, something that lived and acted in his world and in his life. Sin sins. It seeks to use us and manipulate us. It pulls us into its territory and into its thinking. There is much here that is hard to understand, but it helps to realize that we have a very active and personal enemy.
I once saw a Far Side cartoon where the large woman was being pulled against her will into the candy store. She was trying desperately to hang onto a parking meter, but it was clear that she would lose again. This is what sin does to us. It has had years, generations even, to program our flesh in certain ways. We find all kinds of reasons to sin . . . and some of them seem pretty good.
Even as believers, the flesh continues to lead us into the old way of thinking. The good news is that it is the old way. There is a new way. And we have the freedom in Christ to follow the Spirit into a new way of thinking.