"Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him." (1 John 2:15)
This lesson is the fourth in the series on "Christians and the World" (Ref. 1, Ref. 2, Ref. 3). This lesson explains what John meant in his command that Christians should not love the world. This lesson also explains why love for the world rivals our love for God.
Consider. John wrote to Christian believers, "Do not love the world nor the things in the world." What aspects or characteristics of the world are we not to love? Why is loving the world harmful to our relationship with God?
Christian believers should not prefer the world over God. John, Jesus' disciple, instructs Christian believers, "Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him" (1 John 2:15). This verse uses the English word love three times. However, there are nuances of meaning in Greek that are not translated by the word love in English. The first two occurrences of the English word love in 1 John 2:15 are the Greek word agapaó, which means to prefer or esteem (Ref. 4). The third occurrence of the English word love in 1 John 2:15 is agapé, which means divine love, what God prefers (Ref. 5). By adding these meanings in parentheses, 1 John 2:15 reads, "Do not love (prefer) the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves (prefers) the world, the love (divine love) of the Father is not in him."
What aspects of the world does John command us not to love (prefer)? In 1 John 2:15, "the world" that John commands believers in Christ not to love is the world's culture that is alienated from God and is hostile to the cause of Christ (Ref. 1). Nor should we love those affairs of the world which seduce us from God and are rivals for our love for God. In 1 John 2:16, John describes three evil tendencies of the world that we as Christians should be careful to avoid - lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, and boastful pride of life. Satan used these three types of sins to tempt Eve (Genesis 3:6) and to tempt Christ (Luke 4:1-12, Ref. 6).
John's command, "Do not love the world," does not apply to the other definitions of the world that I discussed in the prior lessons, "Biblical Definition of the World" (Ref. 1) and "The World Hates Jesus and His Disciples" (Ref. 3). It is not wrong to enjoy God's creation, to have godly affection for people (John 13:35), and to work for a living so we have the material things that we need for daily life. However, we are not to place people or things above our love for God. We are to worship God, not the world's goods.
Why is loving the world harmful to our relationship with God? Love (preference) for the worldly culture alienated from God pushes out our love for God. Love for worldly culture and love for God are mutually exclusive. John said, "If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him" (1 John 2:15). James writes, "Do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God" (James 4:4).
God will have no rival (Exodus 20:3). We cannot simultaneously serve two masters. We cannot be a slave simultaneously to both God and riches (Matthew 6:24, Ref. 7, Ref. 8).
In the next and final lesson in this series on "Christians and the World," we will focus on God's provision and promises for Christians living in the world.
Apply. Jesus said, "No one can serve two masters" (Matthew 6:24). What aspects of the world's culture tempt you and rival your love for and commitment to God?
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