Do Not Love the World

by Dennis Stackhouse

The fact that Christian people are to be different from those who do not follow Christ, is clearly stated for us in I John 2:15-17: "Do not love the world nor 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 lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever." The original term that is translated as "world" is used here by John to identify those people whose thoughts and actions are opposed to God, those whose lives are not guided by God's word.

The Scriptural plea to not love the world is put in very graphic, unmistakable language in James 4:4, where we read: "You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God." This verse clearly makes a separation between the world and God; it would be impossible for anyone to "ride the fence" in this regard. We cannot have one foot in the world and one foot in God's camp, it has to be one or the other. Jesus, Himself reinforces such a thought in Matthew 12:30: "He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me scatters." So many people want a third choice, an area of non-commitment where they are neither serving God nor the world. But Jesus said this is impossible; we are either for Him or we are against Him. In other words, if we are not serving God we are serving the devil, even if we don't realize it.

Paul had this to say in Romans 12:2: "And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect." For the Christian, conformity with the world is unacceptable. In fact, we are to be completely different from the world so that others can see what it looks like to be a follower of God. James 1:27 gives us another insight as to how a Christian should be living above the world: "Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world." For every one of us seeking to live as a Christian, we are not to allow the practices and thoughts of this world to invade our lives.

Is it possible to escape this physical world that surrounds us? Certainly not. But even though we are living in the world, Christian people should not be living as the world. We are to be different; the non-Christians we encounter should be able to see Christ living in us (Galatians 2:20). Paul put it very well in Philippians 2:15: "Prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world." That is a terrific goal all Christians should embrace as we seek to not love the world.

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