Nature, nurture and the spiritual life

Nature versus nurture is an ongoing debate in the scientific community but what implications does it have for the spiritual life?

Is our identity, personality and behaviour fixed by our genes or is the raw material of ourselves molded by the environment into which we are born – our family, parenting, experience.

Likewise does a person’s spiritual origin determine what they look like or is it more to do with spiritual environment in which they live?Jesus told a religious teacher that to follow Him required a re-birth, an essential ‘re-naturing’ of his being. This would suggest that spiritual ‘nature’ or ‘DNA’ is crucial to being truly in relationship with God.

But Jesus also spent three years of his life full-time with his followers guiding, correcting, encouraging, empowering and loving them. This would suggest that our new nature requires constant nurture.

As with the scientific debate, the answer lies somewhere in the middle. Just as our genes have a remarkable and very specific influence on who we are, our environment has a remarkable and very specific influence on how who we are develops.

Perhaps as people, Christian or otherwise, we need to address this balance, in spiritual terms, in our lives.

Have we been ‘born again’ but immersed in an atmosphere of death. By this I don’t mean hardship or deprivation which often cause us to thrive in our faith, but the fatal air of complacency selfishness, mindlessness and compromise.

Perhaps we do not point to any spiritual encounter in our life but are surrounded with goodness, generosity, passion and belief. A spiritual re-naturing through relationship with God will transform this into something eternal.

Maybe it’s just as simple as considering again how we spend our time, with whom and where our head space really is. Maybe it’s just as simple as deciding it’s time to personally engage with the invitation of friendship from God himself and begin again – on the inside. PH

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