Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 2 image

Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 2

[The second week of the Heidelberg Catechism explains the human predicament in the pithiest terms imaginable. Why are we in such a mess? Because of the law. What does the law say? That I should love God and love my neighbour. And do I? Not so much; in fact, my natural state is to hate them both. Human depravity in three short answers.

Given the clarity with which Jesus summed up the law, it is surprising how often we express human failure without using the word love. Expositions of human sinfulness, especially (and ironically) in Reformed contexts, can sound like a pettifogging list of crimes and misdemeanours, rather than (as Augustine saw so clearly) of misplaced loves. Heidelberg, quoting Christ directly, makes our "misery" all about our failure to love God and love people, and in doing so, puts the heart at the heart of things. Nobody, on reading these three answers, could cast God as a meddling killjoy and humans as the victims of a Victorian headmaster - and that is exactly as it should be.]

Q3. How do you come to know your misery?

A3. The law of God tells me.

Q4. What does God’s law require of us?

A4. Christ teaches us this in summary in Matthew 22:37-40:
“‘You shall love the Lord your God
with all your heart,
and with all your soul,
and with all your mind.’
This is the greatest and first commandment.
“And a second is like it:
‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’
“On these two commandments hang
all the law and the prophets.”

Q5. Can you live up to all this perfectly?

A5. No.
I have a natural tendency
to hate God and my neighbour.

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