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I Was a Good Kid Raised in Church. Did I Hate God as a Child?

From the time I was a young child to my adulthood, I was raised in a church setting, spending nearly every Sunday morning and Wednesday evening around believers. Like many young children raised in the church, I was delighted to hear that Jesus loves me, I was always looking for “signs” of God, and I enjoyed praying. When I was around age five, I even told my mom I saw angels, but the truth is I was young, lied quite a bit, and I loved the idea of the supernatural. Still, from an outsider’s lens, I was also a relatively good kid. Sure, I was bad sometimes, but I’d say sorry, especially when I was caught and knew I deserved a good spanking. In spite of this, I loved hearing of the God who loved me. Yet, I wasn’t saved; I wasn’t a Christian…So could I have loved God? Is that even possible? Doesn’t Scripture say that before salvation, we were enemies of God and haters of Him (Rom. 1:30, Rom. 5:10, Phil. 3:18, Rom. 8:7-9)?

It does, and yet it didn’t appear I was as a young child (at face value, at least). It’s actually quite hard for me to determine the exact day I was saved and became a lover of God, though I can recall the season of my life when I began to change. Yet, I don’t have the radical conversion story that others do. While I’m immensely edified to hear how God has saved fellow believers from cults, witchcraft, alcoholism, etc., my story isn’t quite the same. Before salvation, I wasn’t a militant atheist or a drug addict, yet I was a great sinner. I loved my sin, and I had no heart of repentance. Though I was young, I wasn’t exempt from the Bible’s description of those outside of Christ. I was a rebel against God.

I don’t say this to my despair, but I say this to point to the grace and love of God. Just as He deserves the glory for saving the heroine addict, He deserves every ounce of glory for saving the kids who were raised in the church. Both of these people were once haters of God and are now lovers of Him. They were both once dead but now alive. Yet, it seems that most children who learn of God love Him, but what does Scripture say about this? Is everyone, even sweet children in the church, a hater of God before salvation?


Addressing Some Objections

Now, if you’re like me, all this talk of children being sinful may make you uncomfortable. A part of me hesitates to call the cutest little children sinful (although I admit that it’s a lot easier when I’ve spent a few hours getting after them). But this topic begs a few questions.

What did Jesus mean when he said that we must become like children to enter the kingdom of heaven? (Matt. 18:3). It sounds as if Jesus is saying that children are not sinners, but I don’t think that’s the case. Given that Scripture is clear that we are born into sin, I don’t see Jesus saying that young children are without sin (I’m sure anyone with a little child would vehemently agree that children are sinful). Instead, Jesus is pointing to the childlike trust and faith of a little one. Children have a disposition to trust their mother and father far more than any adult does. That is the type of faith and trust Jesus is calling people to put in Him–one that is childlike.

Despite this disposition to trust that children have, every person is included in Scripture’s declaration that “no one is righteous, no not one” (Rom. 3:10b). But this raises the question: If children are sinful, will they also perish in their sin? I don’t think so. While Scripture never uses the term “age of accountability,” I see proof for one. In Romans 1:18-19, Paul condemns people who “suppress the truth in unrighteousness.” He says that God has clearly revealed Himself in creation, so the people he’s speaking to are without excuse. Here is where children differ. Though they can comprehend right and wrong, few young children can comprehend God in creation and thus suppress the truth of His nature. For that reason and a few others (like King David’s confidence that his child will be with God), I believe all children who pass away from this earth are welcomed into the arms of God. But, it still may seem a bit extreme to say that young children hate God. How can I speak with such certainty?


We All Love Love

From the kindest to the most cruel person, everyone loves the thought of being loved. Granted, our view of love may be unbiblical, but we all desire the adoration that accompanies love. Sure, some of us are insecure and don’t know how to accept compliments, but something within us still longs for praise. It’s such a snare that Scripture continually warns us against flattering others or boasting in the praise of others (Prov. 29:5, Rom. 16:18).

Since we’re born with a desire for adoration, it should come as no surprise to us that before we were saved, we were delighted to hear of God’s love for us. As a child, I was happy to hear that this big, powerful man looked down on me with love. So, to some extent, I also loved this God I had heard of. I prayed for presents and bizarre signs, thinking He was my personal genie who was just crazy about me. Yes, I knew He hated sin, but I didn’t see myself as much of a sinner. Though I intellectually comprehended that I was a sinner, I had little care for my sin. Still, I thought it was quite nice of Jesus to die for me. All the while, I actually hated this Jesus who hung on the cross for me.


Our Hatred of God Exposed

A while ago, as I was working with the children in our church, I was blessed with a necessary reminder of God’s character. We didn’t read verses about God’s kindness or His love; instead, we simply looked at the Ten Commandments. How do the Ten Commandments reveal God’s character? Well, to answer this, the children and I went through the commandments. In the first commandment, God tells us to have no other gods before Him. This reveals to us that God hates false worship because He is the one true God who desires the worship of Him alone.

Though these laws were given thousands of years ago, they still reveal the unchanging character of God today. His character is inseparable from Himself, so to love what God hates is to hate God Himself. If God hates lying (which he does), it's because He is the truth -- so much so that it’s impossible for Him to lie (Heb. 6:18). Here’s the problem: as humans, we are born with a disposition to love lying (or any sin, for that matter). As David says, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me” (Ps. 51:5). Just like David, we have inherited the sinful nature of Adam, and we entered the world in a state of death -- spiritual death (Rom. 5:12). That is why Moses can truthfully say, "for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth” (Gen. 8:21c).

It is these same wicked hearts that also contain a holy standard written on them. Meaning we were born with the law of God written on our hearts. This is exactly what Paul was teaching in Romans 2:14-16 as he spoke of the Gentiles whose conscience bore witness to the law of God though they didn‘t have the oracles of God like the Jews. The Gentiles innately understood right and wrong, and so it is with young children.

As a young child, I understood that stealing a cookie when my mom told me not to was wrong, so instead of waiting til after dinner, I made sure my mom wasn’t around. As I grew older, I became more clever and knew I had to clean my face of any chocolate. I knew sin, and I knew righteousness, but I often chose sin. The law of God in my heart told me no, but my sinful flesh happily overrode the warning of my conscience.

Even as a young child, I proved that I despised God’s law. I abhorred it–and by this, I proved my hatred for God. Since God reveals Himself in His Commandments, we can only conclude that to hate His commandments is to hate God Himself. Now, of course, I wouldn’t have said I hated God as a young child, but the very fact that I chose sin was enough proof. I thought His law was stupid. I found it dumb that I couldn’t be mean to my sister, lie to my parents or gossip. In fact, when I did sin, I thought God was my biggest supporter. Of course, no one taught me this, but my sinful flesh was delighted to create a god of its own liking–a god that resembled me.

Now that I am born again, having a new nature, I love the God who is unlike me in a multitude of ways. In fact, I have been so radically changed by the Gospel that I love the law of God, thus proving that I love the character of God–it's most certainly not stupid to me now. Though my flesh still wages war against me, now, I can sing a song I never could before salvation. I can praise my Lord, saying, “The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul” (Ps. 19:7). To love God is to love His law. We cannot love the God of the Bible and hate His law.

What a glorious change God has worked in my life! I once hated God and despised His Word, but now I find Him and His every Word to be my delight. How could I ever think my testimony is boring?


Proclaim Your Testimony to the World

Christian raised in the church, your testimony is the furthest thing from boring. How much it robs God of glory when we say that we were good kids raised in the church.

It grieves me to know that there are Christians who think they cannot minister to certain people because they were relatively good before salvation. I felt this way for a while, and it stunted my growth as a believer. I knew I wasn’t righteous before salvation, but I didn’t see myself quite as bad as others, so I felt that my testimony was of no use to share.

But, I came to discover that I can sympathize very well with a vast group of people. If you have a testimony like mine, let's remember ourselves as kids. Yes, we were precious children, but we were also lovers of sin. It delighted us to hear that God loves us, yet we hated His law. Do you see a modern-day correlation? I do. I think the younger version of ourselves is much like the progressive “christians” of this day. You and I were just like this group of people. Our testimony is incredibly similar to the person who God has saved out of this movement. But how so? This group of people says they love God yet live in sin that God clearly hates. They prance around with pride flags and signs that say “my body, my choice” while telling others that God approves of them just the way they are. The death and resurrection of Christ mean nothing to them. They hate Jesus, and they abhor His commands. They think it’s foolish that the Bible says their sins are deserving of hell, so they ignore the Bible and create a god of their liking. This was me before salvation, and if your testimony is similar to mine, this was you as well.

The world needs Christians to meditate on the work of God in their life. When we fail to admit that we were lost and desperately wicked before salvation, we fail to give God the glory that He deserves. We fail to share our glorious testimony with the lost, and in our pride, we see them as too far from salvation because we forget that we were once them. Before salvation, we were never “good church kids.” We were evil and lovers of sin as all people before salvation, and our wicked hearts were still saved by grace. What humility and hope this brings me as I pray for those I love who are not yet saved. I, too, was once dead in my trespasses and sins, but now I glory in the God of my salvation. All glory, honor, and praise to the God who saves those who once despised Him and makes them lovers of Him.


"For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation."

Romans 5:10-12


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