April 17, 2015
1 John 2:15-17
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.
The power of human desire cannot be contained, but by the mercy of God, it can be trained. One of the great traps in a text like today’s is to interpret John to say, “Have nothing to do with the world.” It gets further translated into such helpful sayings as, “Don’t drink, smoke or chew or run with those who do.” The next thing you know we have a full blown theology of “holiness” that leads to withdrawing from anything that even smacks of “the world.” Being holy becomes far more about being disassociated from the world rather than being distinctive within it.
It seems right, but it’s dead wrong. John doesn’t say have nothing to do with the world. He says do not love the world. You see our big mistake when it comes to the way we think about the world is we think the world is “out there.” The truth? The world is “in here.”
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 John speaks of is not some adult bookstore on the side of the freeway. It’s the broken desires in the depths of our heart. The R rated movie is not the problem. It’s the broken place in me that desires to see something salacious. The lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life is just another way of describing undiscipled desire. The issue is not my materialistic neighbors, it’s my covetousness. When you boil it all down, the problem is never really “out there” in the so called “world.” The problem is “in here” in the broken world in my inmost self.
Thinking the world is out there rather than within us explains how some of the most strident opponents of sin are the most secret sinners. Ironically, often times the greatest crusaders against online pornography are some of the most perverse participants in it. They thought the problem was online when all the while it was inside. It’s not about the pornography out there but the perversion in here.
Real discipleship in the tradition of Jesus is not about trying to manage sin by running away from the world. It’s about the conversion of our deepest desires within it. The only way to stop loving the world is to be seized by and given to a far greater affection: the Holy Love of God. Real discipleship is not the moral crusade to manage sin. It’s training the heart by the power of the Word of God and the Spirit of God to desire what is truly good and beautiful and holy and loving; to desire God alone.
J.D. Walt writes daily for Seedbed’s Daily Text. He serves as Seedbed’s Sower in Chief. Follow him @jdwalt on Twitter or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Get the Daily Text delivered to your inbox fresh every morning. Subscribe HERE.