If a person sins, asks for forgiveness, and then repeats the same sin and asking for forgiveness over and over again will God forgive them?

Hello Matthew,

I teach kindergarten through fifth grade elementary kids every Wednesday at our church and they’ve been asking some really good questions of me as of late. I was actually teaching them yesterday morning and ran into this question:

If a person sins, asks for forgiveness, and then repeats the same sin and asking for forgiveness over and over again will God forgive them? I told them it all depends on their heart. If it’s a sincere struggle for wanting to do right, but falling short then I think God would forgive them and help them to where they sin less. However, if they really didn’t mean it and made no steps toward actual repentance then no He would not. The question stemmed from me defining repentance for them as the walking toward sin, and then turning away from it to walk toward God instead. This lead to their second question: What about someone who is mentally unstable? If there is someone who psychologically, I’m struggling for the right word here but let’s say…geared toward a particular sin then would God forgive them because God made them that way and they can’t help it. Maybe kleptomania for stealing would be a good example. My response first was that I don’t know. I’m not a psychologist by any means to be able to really understand mental disorders. But I also told them that I believed it would depend on whether they know what they are doing is wrong or not. If the person knew what they were doing was wrong and they never sought help to change then God would hold them accountable for that sin. However, if the desire to change was there and they sought help then I believe God would forgive them.

I’ve been praying about this answer, along with a way to understand how to explain to them the “God made me this way” concept. How would you approach this? I told the 3 individuals who were really digging into this that I would look more into it and come back with an explanation for them as soon as I could that way I didn’t just leave them hanging on the question.

Also, if it’s not too much to ask another question of you, what would you say to “the fairness of being born into sin?” I recently listened to a discussion on Wretched between Todd and a student at UGA, and Todd was asked that question. I kind of understand what Todd was saying, but at the root of it I don’t understand it either and get a sneaking suspicion that will be another question in the near future from the children. Basically the premise is why should I pay the for the fault of Adam? Why did God allow Adam and Eve to procreate instead of saving them, and allowing others the opportunity to choose between eating of the tree or not?

Thank you for your time and I will be praying for you as you look to answer the questions given to you from each of the users here.

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Hi Martin,

I’ll do my best to help you in your situation. Let me start by saying that it’s so good to hear about a youth pastor who is taking his kids questions seriously and taking the time to give them well-considered answers! We need far more deep discussions of theology in kids ministry, and far less baby-food-eating contests. So bravo!

On repentance and sin, I’d look to 1 John 3. This passage makes it clear that those who make a practice of sinning (I.e. are unrepentant about their sin, and continue in it) show that they haven’t had the inward transformation that the Holy Spirit brings. Those who are Christians will still have a struggle with sin (Romans 7), but it’s just that: a struggle. God is making us new and forming us into the image of Christ, slowly but surely.

When it comes to psychological propensity to sin, that applies to all of us. We each have temptations and tendencies in our lives that we are naturally drawn toward just because of the way that we are. This is influenced by our biology and our environment. That might help explain our sin, but it doesn’t excuse it. We always have the ability to resist sin (1 Corinthians 10:13), no matter the factors that influence our temptation. So even someone with kleptomania is able to resist stealing (with God’s help, and perhaps with the assistance of friends or accountability partners who are invited into the situation), and would therefore be morally accountable if they continue in it. “God made me this way” doesn’t cut it when God also gave us free will, and especially when he offered to help us all find a way of escape.

However, there are situations where someone isn’t in control of their actions, such as someone with Tourette syndrome who cannot stop swearing. I think it’s clear that any time someone is doing something that they cannot control, they cannot be held accountable for it. We’re accountable for our freely performed actions, not our uncontrolled activities or predetermined attractions.

Concerning the question about Adam, many would say that we don’t inherit the sin of Adam, but just the propensity toward sin. We’re then accountable for what we do with that. (Others would say that we do inherit the guilt of Adam, which raises interesting questions like the ones you mentioned – and my response to that is that it’s not worth arguing about since, obviously, we’ve all contributed to our own sin reservoir, and are therefore complicit and culpable for that.) As Romans 3:23 says, we all fall short of God’s standard because of our own sin. We’re all in need of a Savior to rescue us from this broken state.

Whew! Weighty matters! Does that help answer some of these questions for you? Let me know what you think!

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