Alot depends on a simple phrase: the world. Christians have had a dicey relationship with it for ages. Consider these Scriptural cautions:
“You are no longer part of the world. I chose you to come out of the world, so it hates you” (John 15:19).
“Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. . . . The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever” (1 John 2:15, 17 NIV)
When passages like these are understood outside of their broader biblical context, they can become dangerously distorted. In a fortress of protection from all things worldly, Christians can hole away in a holy huddle—focused on heaven while ignoring the realities around them. An imbalanced understanding of “the world” can grant us license to not care, to not engage, to live so cloistered (often with others just like us) that we end up functioning without a bit of empathy, generosity, or concern. When “world” only equals “bad,” we ultimately miss the heart of the gospel.
Because on the flip side of “Do not love the world,” we read, “For God so loved the world” (John 3:16, NIV). A proper sense of caution about worldly values and temptations certainly has its place in Christian spirituality, but a myopic disengagement does not reflect the powerful and encompassing love of God for all the world—a love that views this world as worth saving and redeeming. It’s a love for people of all nations, all cultures, all levels of economic status and educational background. When our own lives are changed and shaped by this all-encompassing love, we too can begin to see the world differently. Our global perspective is shaped by the gospel and we view the world—all its cultures, languages, peoples, and struggles—through the lens of love.1
The World: Love It or Hate It?
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