Gems in the Letter of 1 John
Part 107 - 1 John 2:15-17
John said, “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. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.” (2:15-17). He was addressing the society of his day. When he spoke of ‘the world’ he was referring to the human world in which he lived, as did the people over whom he had pastoral care. We would usually call that ‘our society’. Our problem in understanding what he said is, of course, that we do not live in the same society as he did. The facets of our society that people say that we may fall in love with, and should not, are: sex, money and power. Quite how those relate to John’s three facets I do not know but that does not matter because what matters to us is our society and not theirs. John has pointed us very strongly to a principle – of loving something in our world more than we do the Lord our God.
A further problem for me writing this is that you, my listeners and readers, live all round the world in many different societies. That means your situation will differ according to where you are although human nature is such that there will be many common factors wherever you are. Western society all round the world is changing rapidly and that is a further source of problem for us. Most other societies are being dragged along behind the Western developments, not least because of the Internet.
We need to be careful. It is not the case that what our parents thought and did was Christian and the oncoming culture pervading our society is not, or less so, though it often looks that way to us. We have been said to be living in a post-Christian society. That certainly looks to be true but it will still be far from as anti-Christian as the society John’s people were living in. Whatever I say here the most important thing is that we, all of us, have to work out what is God honouring in our day and generation. If we then manage, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to take that as the commands of the Lord and to follow them we shall be doing all that it is possible to do and we shall be displaying our love for the Lord. If we do not think these things out or if, having done so, we fail to follow the lines our conscience has mapped out for us we will have fallen short of the standards the Lord expects of us.
John talks about ‘the lust of the flesh’. That is referring to our sexual drive. That we all have to a greater or lesser extent. There is nothing wrong with the drive. The errors, the sins, may arise from the ways we use it. Attempts have been made to suppress it in some societies but the usual outcome is a great deal of hypocrisy with society leaders making claims about how good their society is when a great deal of the sexual behaviour has just been driven underground. The practice in some societies of delaying marriage until the man is well established is not at all helpful.
Even more than with sexuality there is difficulty over money. We all need to earn a living for our family and ourselves. That must be done. Only a very small percentage of any population can depend on the charitable giving of others for its sustenance. The critical thing is the question of ‘love’. We need sufficient money to keep us going. We do not need a vast surplus even if that will let us do many exciting and desirable things. We need a house. We do not need an enormous mansion or a second house for our holidays. We need to be good stewards of what we have and that need not include the gathering a superabundance of possessions.
Power is not so obviously sort by everybody, though it is curious how those who have no real power outside their household may act in ways that ensure they are the ones with power within the household.
There are so many ways we can demonstrate our love for some aspect of the world. And the real trouble is that, as John says, if we do so we are showing traits that do not come from the Father.
Many Christians used to think the solution was to withdraw from the world into a monastery, or a nunnery or some small Christian group. That is not the teaching of the New Testament. Living in the world may be tough, but it is what we are to do. Jesus, in John 17, says ‘we are still in the world’, ‘we are not of the world’, ‘we have been sent into the world’ and he prays that ‘we may be protected from the evil one’.
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