Friday, July 10, 2015

Learning to Both Love and Hate the World

What do you think of when you hear the phrase “the world?” Does it elicit a positive or negative response?

The Scripture has a lot to say on the subject of “the world” that, on a cursory reading, can seem contradictory. Consider, for example, what the apostle John says. In John 3:16 he wrote: “For God so loved the world … ” But then in 1 John 2:15 he wrote: “Do not love the world or the things that belong to the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in Him.” He records Jesus’ words in John 12:47, “For I did not come to judge the world but to save the world,” but relates Jesus’ admonition in 15:19, “If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.”

It seems like poor John can’t seem to make up his mind about “the world,” and whether we should love it or hate it.

Of course, John wasn’t confused. The Scripture draws a distinction between the people of the world and the fallen system of ideas that work in rebellion against God. In that sense, we are to both love and hate the world (Prov. 8:13). Part of what that means is living in the world (being present and active where God has sent us) but not being of the world (being influenced by and accepting a system profoundly opposed to God). Many Christians, however, are so fearful of being of the world that they completely isolate themselves from anything in the world. Under the banner of “separation,” they’ve gone underground and disappeared from sight. That’s not how we are supposed to live as citizens of God’s kingdom—and it denies the missional nature of the church. Keep reading

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