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Question: I pray for forgiveness every day and feel guilty if I do something wrong. What I don't understand is if we are born with original sin, why should we feel guilty about sinning since we can't help it?
Answer: Thank you for your question. You are right that it may not seem fair that we are guilty if we can't help but sin. Yet the fact is that we are guilty and deserve eternal punishment because God says so. In his Word he points out that he actually holds us accountable for what our first parents, Adam and Eve, did in the garden of Eden. This is called imputed guilt (Romans 5:12-19). God credited the guilt of Adam's sin to every human being. What is more, our first parents have also passed down to us a sinful condition called inherited or original sin (Psalm 51:5). This means that we do sinful things as did our parents. So we are guilty because we have both the guilt and the sinful condition of Adam and Eve.
The good news is that God also credits what his Son, Jesus Christ, did for us to our account. This is called imputed righteousness. And that really isn't fair either. We are declared sinless for something that someone else did. Yet that is the beauty of the gospel. "God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God" (2 Corinthians 5:21). God offers this forgiveness of sins to all people. He tells us, "It's yours. Take it." It is through faith in Christ as our Savior that we make this gift our own.
You also speak about feeling guilty for what you have done. The important thing isn't how guilty we feel over our sins. The key is to recognize that we are guilty before God but then also to trust that through Christ God has set us free. He has removed the guilt of our sin. Therefore we don't have to feel guilty, because we are not.
This question was submitted by a Web visitor to the WELS Q&A, a collection of questions answered by WELS seminary professors. To read more faith-based questions and answers, visit the WELS Q&A.
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