Dr. Ray E. Heiple, Jr.
“Love God? Sometimes I hate Him.”
- Martin Luther
Question 105 of the Larger Catechism asks, “What are the sins forbidden in the First Commandment?” In the third part of the answer, it says, “The sins forbidden in the First Commandment are… unworthy and wicked thoughts of him; bold and curious searching into his secrets; all profaneness, hatred of God… .” Last week we looked at the sin of not rendering to God His due. This week we consider the sin of hating God.
“I know I’m a sinner, but even before I became a Christian I never hated God.” A professed believer adamantly made this statement to me about twenty years ago as we were discussing the sin of hating God. I’m sure many Christians reading this part of the Catechism have thought similarly. The average professing Christian will acknowledge that he is not perfect and that he does not love God as he should. Nearly as many will admit that they are sinners and continue to sin regularly or even daily. Some will affirm the principle of total depravity and that everything they do, even as believers, is corrupted with sin and offensive to God. Yet I am convinced that very few will confess ongoing guilt to the sin of hating God.
Jesus repeatedly taught that the main sin of this world was in hating Him (John 7:7; 15:18) and hating His Father (John 15:23-24). He promised the disciples that if they were faithful to God, they could expect the world to hate them as well (John 15:19; 17:14). The apostle of love exhorts Christians to not be surprised if the world hates us (1 John 3:13), for it is because the world hates God that it will hate all those who love God. Thus, Jesus repeatedly warned His disciples, “You will be hated by all for my name’s sake,” (Luke 21:17. see also Matt. 10:22; 24:9; Mark 13:13; Luke 6:22; etc.). Not only in the New Testament but throughout the Bible, the main characteristic of the unconverted is their hatred of God (Exo. 20:5; Num. 10:35; Deu. 7:10; 2 Chr. 19:2; Psa. 81:15; etc.).
Now you would think that a doctrine with so much Scripture to support it would be well known and embraced by a vast majority of Christians. Yet the exact opposite is the case! The one sin that nearly every believer is certain he is NOT guilty of is the sin of hating God. As believers we have the Spirit of God dwelling in us, but we also have the old man of the flesh, who, though crucified by Christ, still lingers on, fighting to turn us into the ways of sin at every turn (Rom. 7-8). We know we will see him fully vanquished when we die and go to be with the Lord, but until then we must battle our old nature, which is chiefly known by its ongoing hatred of God. Thus, every Christian has a nature that hates God, and sometimes when we listen to that nature and do what it desires, we too can be said to be hating God. Accordingly, Martin Luther was right when asked if he loved God, he gave the answer quoted at the head of this article, “Love God? Sometimes I hate Him.” If you know your own heart, you know that is true of you as well.
The rest of the sins mentioned in today’s portion of the Catechism question can all be seen to flow from this sin of hating God. Why would I ever entertain unworthy and wicked thoughts of God except as I give in to my old nature to hate Him? When people question God’s justice in creating an eternal hell, or in damning the “innocent” native who never heard the gospel, what else is this kind of talk but thinly veiled accusations against God’s goodness flowing out of a self-righteous hatred of His Holy character? Bold and curious speculation into what God has not revealed and all profaneness reveal an astonishing lack of the fear of God and a reckless pride in our own abilities, which are the fruits of hating Him. If we could continually hold on to the slightest reverence for God in who He is and how He made us and all things, we would never engage in such reckless sin, yet when we deny our natural, fallen hatred of God there are no limits to the evils we might commit.
May our good, righteous, and all-perfect God give us the grace and the humility to sincerely confess and have sorrow for our hatred of Him and to ever more turn from it and put it to death!