Word for the Week
Short reflections on Bible passages, with a frontline focus...
What do you think of when you think of ‘the world’? For me, it brings to mind mountains, fields, beaches, and incredible scenery I only really see on Instagram, but deeply want to visit. ‘The world’ to me is the created beauty of all that God had made. I love it – and whenever I manage to stop and pay attention, I am humbled and awed and drawn to worship.
This is not what John means by ‘the world’. John would have been well aware that ‘the earth is the Lord’s and everything in it; the world and all who live in it’ (Psalm 24:1), and the Bible says many positive things about the world as created by God and given to human beings to cultivate. ‘The world’ here, however, has a moral sense, alluding instead to the world which had forsaken the God who had made it, indulging instead in ‘the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life’.
As we go into this week, we will likely be bombarded with these three things that John says represent ‘the world’. We will be encouraged to chase after material things, after possessions and success and accolades. Our eyes will be drawn to images and to words that defile and dishonour. And we will be tempted to boast and brag about our knowledge, belongings, and achievements. The lust of the flesh, of the eyes, and the pride of life. We live in the world, and we cannot escape it. We have a choice to make.
And – as when John writes elsewhere about the opposition between darkness and light – there is no neutrality. We either love ‘the world’ or we love God. We cannot love both – our allegiance must be to one and one alone. John is pretty clear which one we should pick – for ‘the world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives for ever’. To align ourselves with the world’s false gods and false values is to align ourselves with that which is ultimately doomed to destruction.
Just because we live in the world does not mean we have to declare our allegiance to it. To love God, John says, is to exclude other loyalties which demand ultimate allegiance. And to love God is to be promised lasting joy: God will prevail; all else will fade away.