I’m sorry, but this Bible quote, which was in a week ago’s Bible Lesson, is still chaffing. I cringe every time I think of it.
“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. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.” (I John 2:15, 16 KJV)
I feel that is dangerously misleading, and unfortunate. I hereby repudiate it.
Yeah, yeah, I get that it is trying to say: be not “worldly,” focus on Spirit instead of matter, don’t try to get unGodly things, and be more mindful of spiritual existence than the concerns of ordinary earthly life. If that’s what it actually said, instead of making us attempt to extrapolate and infer all that, while on face value being wildly counter-productive, this blog post would not exist.
I looked the quote up in other versions of the Bible. The Message version is slightly better, “Don’t love the world’s ways. Don’t love the world’s goods. Love of the world squeezes out love for the Father. Practically everything that goes on in the world– wanting your own way, wanting everything for yourself, wanting to appear important– has nothing to do with the Father. It just isolates you from him. The world and all its wanting, wanting, wanting is on the way out– but whoever does what God wants is set for eternity.” At least in this version, we get busted for a consumer mentality, which I applaud.
I take the inspired word of the Bible as my guide, but I don’t take everything hook, line, and sinker. After all, stoning children is recommended in the Old Testament, and I would never comply with that. There are things in the the Bible, which in my opinion, are not as constructive as intended. This passage we are discussing is one of them.
I feel like the Bible could have done a better job in teaching us exactly the right way to love the world. Too many Christians take their “dominion over the earth,” as discussed in Genesis chapter 1, as a carte blanche excuse for selfishness, expediency, and environmental ravaging. They don’t need such a strong verse as this warning them against loving the world! I wish I could plug their all too literal ears.
The way I think about it, God is the Creator of everything good, which includes a whole heck of a lot of the world. Yes, it was created spiritually, because like produces like, and Spirit is the ultimate author, and creates like itself. But infinite spiritual good is present and accounted for all over the world. Think of the unfolding beauty of flowers radiantly smiling on all without judgement or artifice, the majesty of mountains, stalwart, protective and strong, or the sweet, warm, dappled light diffusing through fresh spring green leaves…
In the Lord’s prayer, after all, we pray “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” And then we are not to love it?
As we translate things into thoughts, the material world reveals an astounding array of Godlike qualities and attributes, so much so, it is as if we are surrounded by metaphoric or sacramental evidence of God’s love, power, and glory everywhere. Maybe I’m just a poet, but this seems obvious to me. Noticing all that emphatically connects me more to God, and is not a distraction away from God in any way.
It seems to me if “the love of the Father” is in me, then I’d respectfully love and care for all of God’s creation, including all that is good everywhere.
It is pretty hard to love the world if I’m focusing on myself! On the other hand, if my focus is on God’s ever-presence, and all-powerful, benevolent love, I’d be pretty committed to taking care of all the Godlikeness manifested in the world. And frankly, that’s what we need.
“Loving not the world,” has people acting cavalier, polluting, contaminating, and spoiling our chances with this glorious gift of a beautiful planet. That is neither working for us, nor for God. God maintains and sustains, loves, appreciates and takes care, and since we are made in God’s image and likeness, we are required to do so as well. Not doing so is the hubris that deserves emphatic censure.
So how do we wrongly love the world? We exploit and abuse it, we lay waste to it, we are grabby and selfish, arrogant, narcissistic, and myopic. Please, refrain from doing that, or being that way.
And how do we rightly love the world? See God’s qualities and attributes everywhere, indicated keenly in every little miraculous, magnificent, wholesome, virtuously Godlike microcosm. Those aspects are everywhere in this world, and our job here is to delight in them, be grateful for them, and to amplify them for one another, always remembering and being in awe of their supreme Source. We need to own and treasure every bit of evidence of God’s presence we see in this world.
God is Life and we are alive right here! God is Mind and we are always mindful of all God’s generosity and grace! God is Spirit and spiritual good is ever with us in this world, for us to experience and adore. God is infinite Love and we are made to love and nurture vigorously in return, right here and right now.
Please! Honor God by loving, cherishing, and caring for all the evidence of God everywhere in the world!