Sunday, December 06, 2009

Johnny Poppin' 6; Do Not Love the World

12I write to you, dear children,
because your sins have been forgiven on account of his name.
13I write to you, fathers,
because you have known him who is from the beginning.
I write to you, young men,
because you have overcome the evil one.
I write to you, dear children,
because you have known the Father.
14I write to you, fathers,
because you have known him who is from the beginning.
I write to you, young men,
because you are strong,
and the word of God lives in you,
and you have overcome the evil one.
-1 John 2:12-14

This poem-like greeting is even cooler when you old Saint Johnny when he wrote it. When he first became a disciple, he was one of Jesus' youngest followers, a small town fisherman on the "Sea" of Gallilee. When he wrote this letter to the church, he was an old man on some island in the Aegean, far from his roots, toward the end of his travels through Greece and Turkey spreading the word of God across the world. He may have been in his 80's or 90's. So it was very tender and sweet to call us "dear children." He's not being condescending or patronizing, he's full of affection. Try to remember that this isn't some archaic historical document or stuffy, academic theological treatise. This is a letter. The whole Bible is God's love letter to His children, but try thinking about first, second, and third John as letters from your grandpa or a great uncle. It really makes it personal and meaningful.

15Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world. 17The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.
-1 John 2:15-17

This morning on my drive in to work, I happened upon Chuck Swindoll's radio broadcast, "Insight for Living" and he happened to be teaching on this same passage. Click here if you'd like to hear what he had to say about it.

It got me to thinking, what is "the world" anyway?

Often Christian teachers mention three enemies to the human soul, the world, the flesh, and the Devil. The Devil is obvious, a specific individual- intimidating but finite and already defeated by Christ. The flesh, well that's our own sinful human nature, our cravings, drives, and lusts (Romans 7:14-25). Sigmund Freud may have been wrong about a lot of things, but he was right that deep down human beings can be motivated by pleasure and pain.

But what exactly IS this thing they talk about when they say "the world?" Is it the planet Earth? The environment? Soil? Dirt? I don't think so.

In the 1976 movie, "Network," Arthur Jensen, chairman of the company which owns a television network, explains his "corporate cosmology" to a mentally unstable network news anchor;

"There is only one holistic system of systems; one vast interwoven, interacting, multivariate multinational dominion of dollars. Petrodollars, electrodollars, reichmarks, rubles, rin, pounds and shekels. It is the international system of currency that determines the totality of life on this planet. That is the natural order of things today. That is the atomic, subatomic and galactic structure of things today..."

No, I'm sure that a lot of you who know my political leanings are assuming that I'm accusing "the world" of being the financial world or maybe materialism or consumerism, but it's more than that. It is society, human culture, the holistic system of systems or selfish, short sighted, sinful humans- it is all of us together, collectively.

Call it peer pressure if you want to, but it's not a sentient, conscious, deliberate being like either our own selves or Satan. But it does have a gravity to it., a climate, and current, a sway. It includes all our lusts, all our sinful ambitions, including but not limited to money and consumerism too. Sex, power, prestige, attention, food, entertainment- sex, drugs and rock and roll- sex, politics, and religion- all of this constitutes "the world," and all of us together.

Is "the world" money and consumerism? You bet. I think it's also prejudice and discrimination and racism, sexism, and bigotry of all kinds including homophobia and religious bigotry. It's hate. It's what Thomas Hobbes might have called being in a cruel, rough state of constant competition. Martin Luther King Jr. would have said that it included poverty, racism, and militarism.

It is "the way we've always done things," the way things are, societal and institutional pressures. It is the force that says that it's not okay to be a 40 year old virgin and the force that says that you have to be skinny and tall and tan and have big boobs or big genitalia and ripped abs. "The world" is the "they" that always seem to have something to say. It is the voyeuristic need to know who's doing who and who's on what and the urge to be famous on your own "reality" show.

1 John 2:15-17 warns against three traps of the world;- lust of the flesh, lust of the eye, and boastful pride; Hedonism, materialism, and egotism.

But we are called to be in the world but not of it. To love the sinners but hat the sin.

In John's Gospel, toward the end of his ministry, before his suffering and death, Jesus tells us that we aren't at home in this world.

John 15:19 "If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you."

In John 17, Jesus prays for His disciples and for us too- John 17:15 "My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one."

He reminds God the Father that we are aliens in this system of sinful systems.
John 17:16 "They are not of the world, even as I am not of it."

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