Are We Supposed to Love the World?

Recommended Reading: 1 John 2:1-17

Note: This is part 3 of the “First Love” series! To check out part one, click here. To read part two, click here!

God fiercely loves the world.

Jesus loved people. He loved them through words, actions, acceptance, miracles, everything you can imagine. He loved people. Most of us know John 3:16:

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

He loves the world so much that He was prepared to watch His only Son, who He loves with a love that none of us can even imagine, die a horrible death in order to save it.

God loved the world so much that He was willing to step down out of glory and into our lives here on Earth, with all of its sickness and pain and mourning and…mortality. That’s like starting out a human and choosing to become an ant.

Imagine that kind of love. To be honest, I can’t. My mind doesn’t even come close to imagining that. I only have my experiences of my imperfect love and other people’s imperfect love to go off of, and I’ve never seen anything that sacrificial. I have nothing to compare it to. It’s reckless love.

Of course, at first glance this seems to contradict John’s words in 1 John 2:15-17:

Do not love the world or the things in the world. The love of the Father is not in those who love the world; for all that is in the world–the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eyes, the pride in riches–comes not from the Father but from the world. And the world and its desires are passing away, but those who do the will of God live forever.

Is this a mistake?

To answer that question, I decided to go to the original Greek and see if different words were used in John 3:16 and 1 John 2:15-17. It’s the same word: κόσμος (kosmos).

So, the mystery continues.

As it turns out, “kosmos” has a few different meanings. Here is the one that best fits John 3:16:

The inhabitants of the earth, men, the human family.

And here are the two that, according to a couple of different commentaries I read, both fit 1 John 2:15-17:

  • The ungodly multitude; the whole mass of men alienated from God, and therefore hostile to the cause of Christ

  • World affairs, the aggregate of things earthly

    1. the whole circle of earthly goods, endowments riches, advantages, pleasures, etc, which although hollow and frail and fleeting, stir desire, seduce from God and are obstacles to the cause of Christ

If we are to be like Jesus, we are to love humanity but not the world.

“The world” tends to be a more collective term, Biblically. It encompasses the sinfulness of humanity, the pursuit of pleasure, and other obstacles to the cause of Christ.

1 John 2:15 says “do not love the world.”

Romans 12:2 says “do not be conformed to the world.”

James 4:4 says “do not be a friend to the world.”

Am I not allowed to have fun?

What does it mean not to love, not be conformed to, and not be a friend to the world?

At first glance this just looks like a list of “do-nots.” It can start to seem like an even longer list of “do-nots” the more you think about it. Don’t do this and don’t do that so you can avoid looking like the rest of the world…

But what if this isn’t legalism? What if it’s mercy?

1 Timothy 5:6 says, “but she who is self-indulgent is dead even while she lives.”

I have a feeling that this doesn’t just apply to females.

The world will tell you that in order to be happy and fulfilled, you need to indulge yourself and you need to do it often. It’s the meaning of life; it’s the only thing that matters.

Dead even while they live.

We are surrounded by people who are dead even while they live. We, however, have the incredible mercy of Jesus, which allows us to no longer live for self-indulgence and live instead for a greater cause: the Kingdom of God.

Allegiance with the world–loving the world–looks like self-indulgence; it looks like indulging our pride, our lust, our gluttony, and our jealousy.

Self-indulgence is fun for a fleeting moment, but it leads to death even while we live.

Jesus has asked us to stay away from that type of living (and, by default, not love the world) not because He didn’t think we had a long enough list of rules, but because He wants His children to have life.

Be encouraged by Jesus’ words in John 16:33:

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.

Don’t worry about the rest of the world. Jesus has already overcome it.

Focus on serving; on following Him; on loving people. He loved the people of this world more than anyone else ever has or ever will during His time on earth. Let’s follow His example.

Keep inviting people into the Kingdom. We are surrounded every day by people who are still living for their own indulgence, people who are dead even as they live. I don’t know about you, but that fills me with compassion for those I meet. We have the privilege of telling them how we came alive and that they have the opportunity to do the same.

What will you do with that privilege today? What does loving the world–the inhabitants of the earth that God loved enough to send His son to die–look like for you today?

Until next time,

Jenna

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