“Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love 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 pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever” (I John 2:15-17). Why should Christians not love the world?
First, we should not love the world because of what the world is. The world in this passage is not the physical world, not God's creation, for it is “very good” (Gen. 1:31). Neither is it the human world, or mankind. God Himself loves the world of men (John 3:16; II Pet. 3:9; Rom. 5:8). The “world” John is discussing is the world of sin, which is evil. It is the “sphere” or area in which sin, evil, and Satan dominate. Just as the phrase “the world of sports” describes the domain where sports dominates, so this “world” of sin is one in which sin dominates (II Cor 4:4).
Three things are listed by John that make up this “world” we are not to love. (1) “The lust of the flesh.” This phrase refers to the unbridled desires of the flesh (Gal. 5:19-21). In Eve's case she “saw that the tree was good for food” (Gen. 3:6). From Galatians 5:19-21 we learn that these sins will keep one out of heaven. (2) “The lust of the eyes.” This term refers to the unlawful longing for things which we can see. In Eve's case she “saw that it was pleasant to the eyes” (Gen. 3:6). The word “covetousness” pretty well sums this up as well. Another term that could very well be applied here also is “materialism.” How serious a sin is this? Consider Ephesians 5:5-7 and Colossians 3:5- 7. (3) “The pride of life.” This would include pride based on such things as age, experience, ancestry, past accomplishments, money, position, power, etc. In Eve's case she saw that it was “a tree to be desired to make one wise” (Gen. 3:6). The folly of trusting in such things is seen in I Corinthians 1:26-31.
Second, we should not love the world because of what loving the world does. (1) It makes it impossible to love the Father (v. 15). The term “love of the Father” must mean “love for the Father” and not the Father's love for us, because He loves us even as sinners (Rom. 5:8). John is not the only person to say this (James 4:4; Matt. 6:24). Our sinful pride may rebel against this thought, but Jesus, James, and John are very emphatic on this point! So the choice is ours! (Josh. 24:15). (2) If we love the world, we cannot keep God's commandments! If you are driven by “the lust of the flesh” to commit fornication or adultery, then you cannot keep His commandment to “defraud not your brother” in I Thessalonians 4:3-6. If you are overcome by “the lust of the eyes,” so that you constantly want more and more, and you are determined to hold on to what you have, then you cannot keep God’s command to help those in need (I John 3:16-17). Nor can you keep His commandment to “be content” with “having food and raiment” (I Tim. 6:8). And if you are filled with “the pride of life,” so that you consider yourself more important than others, then you will not be able to keep the command to imitate Christ in Philippians 2:3-5. We need to look at II Corinthians 4:7 and I Corinthians 3:7 often to help us understand our importance! So it is impossible to faithfully serve God and His Son, thereby showing our love for them, if we allow ourselves to “love the world”! But John gives a third reason why we should not love the world, and we will look at that next week.
Paul M. Wilmoth