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Cookeville, TN 38506
"And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world,
and preach the gospel to every creature" (Mark 16:15).
The Christian and the World
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).
In I John we learn that fellowship with God requires that we love one another and that there is no room in the heart of a Christian for hatred toward our brother (I John 2:9). However, in our text, John mentions one area in which we are to have no love at all! This is a very simple command: “Love not the world.” But do we understand the meaning of this command and do we appreciate its importance? In this study, I hope to: (a) shed some light on what is being said by John, and (b) provide motivation for us to seriously consider what he is commanding in this text.
Let's begin by answering the question, “Why should Christians not love the world?” First, because of what the world is. What is “the world” in this passage? We know it is NOT the physical world, not God's creation, for it is “very good” (Gen. 1:31). It is NOT the “human world,” or mankind. God Himself loves the world of men (John 3:16; II Peter 3:9; Rom. 5:8). It 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 racing” describes the domain where racing dominates, so this “world of sin” is one in which sin dominates. See II Corinthians 4:4.
This “world” is composed of three things:
(1) “The lust of the flesh” This phrase refers to the unbridled desires of the flesh (Gal. 5:19-21). In Eden when Eve was tempted 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” sums this up as well. Another term that could very well be applied here also is “materialism.” How serious a sin is this? Read 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.
Each of these three areas of sin often strike harder at different times in our life. Someone has suggested that the young are more often affected by the lust of the flesh. The middle-aged are most often affected by the “lust of the eyes.” The aged are more likely to be plagued by the “pride of life.” There also seems to be a tendency to consider one of these areas of sin more seriously than the others. We seem more concerned with sins involving the “lust of the flesh” than sins in the other areas or categories. Which is worse—fornication or covetousness? Which do you consider the more serious—adultery or jealousy? If we are not careful, while fighting so hard to prevent immorality, materialism and pride may “sneak in” the back door! But whether it is immorality, materialism, or pride, it is still part of the “world” we are commanded not to love!
(To be continued)
Paul M. Wilmoth
Church of Christ