1 John 2:15-17
Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.…
Intimately connected, as we are, with this point of space, we are connected still more intimately with something which transcends alike both time and space — the Eternal and the Infinite in which we live and move and have our being. It is because the world tends to draw off our thoughts from Him Who is the centre and fountain of our life that we are warned not to love the world. The world against which we are warned is something transitory and changeable. It is that which appeals to our senses, which supplies to us the natural field of enjoyment and thought and action. It is plain that if the world means all this, it is utterly absurd to think we can escape from it, as some have fancied, by becoming hermits, or avoiding certain kinds of society or amusement. The world is wrapt up in our very nature. It is a necessity of our earthly life. We might as well say we would renounce our bodies, renounce easing or breathing, as say we would renounce the world in this sense. It is not the world then in itself, but a particular way of using the world, a particular way of being affected by the world, which we Christians are to give up. It may help us to understand what is the wrong use and the wrong influence of the world if we think first what is the right use and right influence. Why did God place us in such a world as this? Was it not in order that we might be raised from the animal to the spiritual, from the state of nature to the state of grace, that we might learn to know God and do His will, and so become partakers of eternal life? This, then, is the right use of the world, that, through the things which are made, we might come to Understand the invisible things of God. Let us think of some of the ways in which this is done. The infant's world is its mother's lap. In and through that visible world it is taught, even before it can think, some of the invisible things of God. So again the astronomer when he ponders over the varying aspects of the starry heavens, the naturalist when he examines with the microscope the structure of creatures invisible to the naked eye, the poet when he bows down in reverence and adoration before the Holy Spirit revealing itself in nature — these all use the world aright, they rise through the visible, the outward transitory fact, to the invisible, the inner law, the unchanging character and will of the Eternal Father. Let us now descend from this wider view of our environment to that which we most commonly understand by the term "the world," and which no doubt approaches more nearly to its use in the Bible — the influence of society in general upon each member of the society. Many men have been kept from doing wrong by fear of the world's censure, many men have been stimulated to do right from hope of the world's praise. In this way, then, the voice of society is to a certain extent an echo of the voice of God. But far more valuable and important is that other influence of society, when each individual man ceases to think of himself as a separate unit with his separate interests, and becomes conscious of a common membership and a common life. As, for instance, when a boy at school learns to care more for the honour and credit of the school than he does for any advantage or credit to himself, or when the soldier is so penetrated by the spirit of discipline and loyally and patriotism that he willingly sacrifices his life to ensure the safety of his comrades or the triumph of his country. If through the world of nature we are taught something of the might and the wisdom and the glory of God, surely through the world of humanity, through the natural feeling of fellowship which binds us all together, we are taught a yet higher truth, we are brought into sympathy with Him who left the throne of glory to take upon Him the form of a servant. Such, then, being the right use and the right influence of the world, it will not be difficult to see what is its wrong use and wrong influence, what, in fact, is the meaning of the term "world" as used in my text. The world, in the bad sense, is that in our environment which has a tendency to lower our moral nature, to shut out the thought of God, to make us disbelieve in the eternal righteousness and love. Let us take a few examples. Public spirit, esprit de corps, which is the parent of so much that is good, may also be the parent of terrible evil. Men who would have shrunk from doing harm to their neighbour on private grounds have been ready to commit the worst atrocities when it was ordered by the society to which they belonged. So a man whom we have known as fair and honourable in private life, will use the most unfair means, will descend to intimidation and slander, if not to actual falsehood, in order to promote the interests of the religious or political party to which he belongs. In all these cases we see the evil influence of that world against which St. John warns us. The man forgets that the first and greatest commandment is his duty to God, and that his duty to man can only be rightly accomplished as long as he remembers his duty to God. I turn now to the second kind of social influence of which I spoke before, I mean where a man is not carried away by the prevailing feeling, but where he consciously adapts himself to it with a view to gain respect or admiration, or to avoid punishment, or blame, or contempt, or inconvenience of any kind. As I said before, the effect of this motive is to a certain extent favourable to virtuous action, but no action is made virtuous or right simply because it is done to get credit or avoid discredit. It becomes right when it is done to please God, and it is only when we believe that human judgment is in accordance with God's judgment that we may properly take man's approval as a guide for our conduct. The great danger is that we take the fashion, whether of a larger or smaller world, as being itself the authoritative standard of life; that we are so deafened by the outside noise that we cease to hear the still small voice of God in the heart; we do not ask whether He approves, we do not even stop to ask what is the origin, or meaning, or ground of the custom or opinion which fashion enjoins, till at last we become simple echoes, we have no genuine tastes or feelings left, our one anxiety is to repeat correctly the latest catch word of the moment.
(J. B. Mayor, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.