July 3, 2023
“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.”
1 John 2:15-17
In the Bible, the term “world” changes meaning depending on the way it is used. The same apostle who wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, “For God so loved the world” is the same apostle who wrote under the inspiration of the same Holy Spirit, “Do not love the world.” The same word is used in the Bible to mean two very different things depending on the way it is used. Even our hymnbooks contain some of these mixed messages: we sing “This is my Father’s world” while also singing “This world is not my home.”
If God loves the world then why does John tell us to not love the world?
God loves the world on his terms not the terms of the world. We also are called to relate to the world in this same way. God loves every part of his creation and person bearing his image. Yet, he does not love the hostility of His creatures to Him, their rebellion against His rule, and our continued efforts to distort the creation He has made. The world as John refers to it here is not meant to be understood comprehensively. Rather, he is referring to the organized and intentional efforts of humanity to rid itself of God.
As the church participates in God’s mission to the world, we do so because we love the world and want to see every person experience the saving power of the gospel. But we are at the same time called to resist the world’s corrupting influence. The issue that John raises in these verses is a matter of the heart. Our concern as the church is not merely our actions but also our affections.
To know Jesus Christ in a saving way is to know a new love and this new love redefines our life in the world. Things that used to be considered worthwhile no longer are and a new form of life emerges. When we fall in love with a person, we fall out of love with other things. Our new love redefines how we use our time, money, words, and everything about us. We have a new relationship with God and we need a prayerful awareness about how our relationship with him ultimately changes our relationship with the world.
Andy Jones is a teaching elder and manages Roundtree, a marketing firm serving nonprofit organizations.