In his first letter, John talks about where we live, and where God lives. In it, he offers us a juxtaposition of the Father versus the world, and describes two kingdoms with radically different agendas. Have you ever stopped to think about what John really means? If there is a heavenly father, how is he different from the world? Are His values different from the world’s values? And what exactly does “the world” refer to?
(As you answer these questions, take a moment to congratulate yourself for reaching Day 70 of Reading through the Bible; just a few books to go and you will have read passages from Genesis to Revelation!)
One of These Things is Not Like the Other
“Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world.” (1 John 2:15-16, NIV) The conflict between what the world has to offer against God’s promises has been going on since Esau traded his birthright for a pot of stew. (Well, actually you could go back to the Garden of Eden, when Eve traded being God’s subject for independence. She wanted to experience the world in the worst way, and she succeeded!)
John sees a dramatic contrast between the Father and the world: they have different values, priorities, and characteristics. Perhaps we should take a closer look.
The world, in John’s eyes, was made up of carnal appetites, earthly ambitions, and temporal values. It is a place where human nature pursues its lusts, and where men vie for wealth and power. The world is, candidly, a place where humans are concerned primarily with self-fulfillment. It’s what we see around us every day.
On the other hand , John contrasts the world and its agenda with the Father. What are the Father’s characteristics? In his Gospel and in his letters, John spells them out. God is love. He is truth. The Father is goodness. He is life. The Father’s domain includes faith and redemption, hope and transformation… It is about servant leadership and new birth.
The world, on the other hand, is characterized by self: it includes all greedy desires, lust, appetite, pride, and self-sufficiency. The world caters to the flesh and the temporary. It is about building yourself up, and salving your insecurities with temporary fixes. As a result, the world is about grasping, power-hungry leaders, and even ordinary people who can be cruel and selfish. In short, it is about death.
John warns us not to love the world, but we do anyway: we abandon grace for gratification and accept lust in place of love. Have you ever stopped to realize that the world mimics the Father? For every good thing the Father offers, the world offers a counterfeit replacement that is either a watered-down version of the real thing or the opposite of it.
The Father offers humility; the world offers pride. The Father offers peace; the world offers thrills; the Father offers Truth. The world gives us relativism with its spin, half-truths, and outright lies…with the Father, it’s all about HIM; in the world, it’s all about ME. God’s kingdom is based on unusual logic, where you have to accept another’s will to be free, give to gain, die to live, and serve to lead.
The world is based on selfish logic, where freedom means doing whatever you want, people worship shallow possessions or money (it’s all about the Benjamins in the Lifestyles of the rich and famous), they look out for number One (“nice guys finish last”), and leaders covet and capture power using sophisticated deceit. It was John who informed us that “the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Now he’s telling us there is a simple choice to make: love the Word, or love the World. John says you can’t love both.
Tell me, what choice have you made? Look at your priorities, your time, your inner thoughts, your desires… what do you love? John says, “the world passes away, and the lust of it: but he that does the will of God abides forever.”
The world is full of fun and flesh, and thrills that are forever fresh:
The biggest house, the latest styles, the nicest car, the biggest smiles…
The orbit of the world, you see, revolves around the planet “Me”–
Where consequence brings no regret, and I should take what I can get!
Eat and drink today! Get High! Because tomorrow we may die!
The Father says, “Love me instead.” Don’t give the world your heart or head;
Love me, my child; remember this: the world is never all there is.
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