While reading Hebrews 12 I came across this idea of a constant struggle against sin. This plays into the whole idea that we all have a sinful nature and have to constantly fight against our impulses. I tried to think of any of my impulses that I usually have to fight against and I couldn't really think of much. I generally know what the right thing to do is, and I am generally compelled to do it just because I know it is right, or because I care about the other people who are affected by my actions.
So I tried to think of a scenario where I would have somewhat of a moral quandary, suppose I was out on a walk and I found a wallet on the ground. While searching inside for a license I notice that there is a lot of money it is, say $1000. I could very easily take that money and then return the wallet, and it would just look like the guy had his wallet stolen by someone else who took the money and ditched the rest, and I found it and returned it. Most likely I could get away with it. If I found myself in that situation, chances are that the thought would go through my head, but I wouldn't really take the money, for one thing I would feel guilty as I know how I would feel if the situation was reversed.
By considering this hypothetical and imagining myself taking the money, am I demonstrating my sinful nature? I would argue the opposite, the fact that I wouldn't in the end take the money shows that I am a good person. And I don't think I am special here, I think most people would do the same. We might fantasize about having that money, especially if we are in a tough financial situation, but ultimately I think very few people would take the money.
How would I have analyzed this when I was a Christian? I would have viewed this as an example of my constant struggle against sin. The simple fact that I considered taking the money shows what a terrible person I am. The fact that I wouldn't take the money in the end isn't because I considered the other person, it is because God helped me overcome my sinful nature and kept me from stealing, which is my heart's desire. I don't know how widespread this type of mentality is, but it is exactly how I used to think. I would construct these scenarios and come up with possible ways to respond. Any bad possibility that I could come up with was just evidence of the evil person I was, anything good was just God working through me.
Was this the intended message from the church? No, I don't think so, I'm sure I took it too far, I tend to do that. But was I really that far out on a limb? All my life I heard that we all struggle against sin, that we have an inherently sinful nature, that we deserve to be tortured for eternity. These are dangerous messages to send to children. Tell someone they are a sinful piece of shit their whole childhood and they just might believe it.