Nurture or Nature?

If you abide in Me and My word abides in you, then you shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.

 That’s become a popular subject of discussion. We wonder which exercises more control of human behavior.

Do we react to certain situations in certain ways because of genetic inheritance from our parents? Or do we react because of the environment in which we grew up?

Is one person quiet and another boisterous because that’s the way each was born? Or did the pressures of their upbringing make them that way?

Did John Dillinger rob banks because he inherited a gene that predisposed him to do so? Or did events he lived through as he was growing up cause him to turn to bank robbing?

Was Billy Graham born with a “preacher gene,” or did interaction with his family and friends lead him in that direction?

This is an interesting discussion and one for which there will probably never be a definitive answer. I think most people would say both factors are important in making a person who he is, and I don’t think we’ll ever all agree on which is the stronger factor.

But the conversation misses an even more important ingredient: the Holy Spirit. A Christian is not limited to his genetic nature or his environmental atmosphere. He has more available.

We’ve all heard the expression, “A tiger can’t change his stripes.” Very true. Most people have very little success in changing their own nature. But this is one area where a Christian has a huge advantage over a non-Christian.

Religion is man’s attempt to appease or find favor with a remote god. Christianity is God’s reaching out to bring man unto Himself. We don’t do the reaching. We don’t try to appease. God does it all. Our place is to accept His free gift and submit ourselves to Him to allow Him to do whatever work He sees fit in us. Not to us or at us or around us, but in us. That’s the key.

Under the Old Covenant, God give His people Ten Commandments and several hundred laws to obey in order to try to please Him—knowing that no one could live up to all of that all the time. But He promised a New Covenant through His prophet Jeremiah:

But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord, I will put my law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God and they shall be My people. . . . I will for give their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more. (Jeremiah 31:33 & 34, NASB)

This is the heart of the Gospel. This is the Good News God promised to us. Rather than try to restrain us with external laws and rules and regulations, He said He would do the work Himself inside us. He does that through His Holy Spirit.

As Christians, we have that Holy Spirit sealed inside us from the moment of our new birth. His primary job is to conform us to the image of the risen Christ. That’s right—the Holy Spirit works inside us from the moment we accept Jesus as our Savior to make us more Christ-like.

We are no longer limited to the genetic nature we were born with or to the results of our upbringing either one. The Holy Spirit can remake us into the people God wants us to be IF we will submit ourselves to Him.

I don’t know about you, but that’s pretty exciting stuff to me.

Are you satisfied to be limited to the product of your genetic nature and environment? Wouldn’t you rather be able to allow God to make you a better person than you are?


clip_image005David N. Walker is a Christian father and grandfather, a grounded pilot and a near-scratch golfer who had to give up the game because of shoulder problems. A graduate of Duke University, he spent 42 years as a health insurance agent. Most of that career was spent in Texas, but for a few years he traveled many other states. He started writing about 20 years ago, and has six unpublished novels to use as primers on how NOT to write fiction. Since his retirement from insurance a few years ago, he has devoted his time to helping Kristen Lamb start Warrior Writers’ Boot Camp and trying to learn to write a successful novel himself.


About David N. Walker

David N. Walker is a Christian husband, father and grandfather, a grounded pilot and a near-scratch golfer who had to give up the game because of shoulder problems. A graduate of Duke University, he spent 42 years in the health insurance industry, during which time he traveled much of the United States. He started writing about 20 years ago and has been a member and leader in several writers' groups. Christianity 101: The Simplified Christian Life, the devotional Heaven Sent and the novella series, Fancy, are now available in paperback and in Kindle and Nook formats, as well as through Smashwords and Kobo. See information about both of these by clicking "Books" above.
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11 Responses to Nurture or Nature?

  1. Beautiful David. Your passion for God and Christ are so apparent through this post. I love seeing you write in this way. Bravo!


  2. Barb Estinson says:

    Interesting post, David. I agree with much of what you say, and I also think that Renee has some very good points. I like the focus on loving and valuing each other rather than focusing on disagreements. As you and I both know, that has gotten us nowhere … lol. I think another factor in our nature is the effect of our life experiences (beyond childhood) on us and how we choose to respond to them.



  3. We all have choices but we also have personalities and predispositions to certain behaviors, as you said. I am completely in agreement with you about employing our faith to, at least, try to live a better life.


  4. I’m sure all Christians will see it just like you do, and I’m not one for a religious debate because it leaves everyone feeling exhausted.

    I would only say that I can’t stand when people say they pray it is G-d’s will that they might {insert x here}. Jews believe we do our own work. G-d gives us strength and offers us lessons, but we have to work ourselves, not passively wait for things to happen. And we don’t believe that just because someone believes something they are better than others or they get a free pass to Heaven.

    That is a conversation that brings me to pain and chaos.

    Jesus NEVER said anything about who is going to Heaven. His disciples did. And, as with everything else, I suppose there is a bit of nature AND nurture in everyone. Separated twin studies have shown us that much.

    Jews don’t believe that people are simply saved by belief. We believe people need to focus less on this unknown thing called Heaven and create it now, by our behavior here on earth. By our acts of love and kindness. In the way we relate to each other.


    • Renee, your friendship is very important to me, and I’ve actually held back on starting a Christian blog series because I didn’t want to offend you. I just finally decided I must do it.

      I actually agree with much of what you say. As you read my blogs, please bear in mind that they are NOT an attempt to vilify Jews. I write them as one Christian to another about what I believe the Bible says to all Christians.

      I don’t believe there’s any profit for either of us in arguing over salvation. Let’s just share love and agree to disagree.


      • Agreed. And you need to know I think you are fabulous.

        It sometimes smarts a little for me when things move in this direction. I’ve been down this path with blogging friends before, and it has ended in a lot of heartache for me.

        But, absolutely, you have to do what you need to do. And I would NEVER want you not to write what is in your heart. Your love for G-d and devotion to your Savior comes through every post you write — whether you know it or not.


  5. Well said, David. I’m in total agreement with you. The essence if Christianity is:
    “As Christians, we have that Holy Spirit sealed inside us from the moment of our new birth. His primary job is to conform us to the image of the risen Christ.”

    So, it is by Grace we have been saved through faith.


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