The concept of “the world” and how we respond to it, has been mauled beyond recognition for many Jesus followers. What is “the world”? And where is the biblical basis for our responses/reactions?
By listening and observing other Christians, I can confidently say that many have no clue how the bible defines “the world”…and we’re hurting people in the process.
Here’s the rundown of our Biblical sources:
1 Timothy 6:11-14 tells us to, “…keep the commandment unstained”
The Commandment: Loving God and loving others.
Definition of “unstained”: Uncomplicated/simple/clear
Unstained by what: James 1:27 – “the world”
Our problem now is how we DEFINE, “the world”.
Many Christians believe the object of their faith is to avoid getting stained by “worldly” things. So, their relationship with God is one of avoidance, isolation & removal. Their view of “the world” is bad people, bad songs, rated R movies, revealing clothing, cussing, tobacco, and tattoos. And if they could just stay inside their sanctuary all week then they could avoid being “stained by the world”.
But John 17:15 presents a problem to this reaction. Here, Jesus prays “I DO NOT pray that you take them out of the world, but keep them from the evil one.” And John 3:16 famously states, God LOVES the world.
So what is “the world” we are supposed to avoid?
We’ve taken the easy way out and pinpointed the exterior and neglected the heart. And in doing so, we’ve hurt people in the name of, “overcoming the world”.
The greek word for “worldliness” is, “an attitude or philosophy that is removed from God.” [Aka, perspectives where the concept of God is not considered or present]
We develop life mantras and philosophies over a cup of coffee with our friends and choice media influences without ever considering how God thinks about the issue. We base our meanings of life on our own accord with people who think like us and never seek a more substantial source (God)… THAT is what stains our message!
Our ideas about social, political, sexual, cultural, or spiritual issues are the things that scripture deems, “worldly”. And I guarantee, that these are the things that have hurt us more than any tattoo, piercing, or Jay-Z song ever has or ever will. And that is why we are told to prevent ourselves from being “stained by the world.”
Just think about all of those cheesy tag lines, self-made proverbs, and quotes we’ve acquired that are never mentioned in scripture.
1 John 2:15-17 tells us how to recognize these worldly concepts that stain our commandment.
“For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. 17 And the world is passing away along with its desires“
These concepts that we live out, pass away WITH their desires.
They pass away unfulfilled. Unsatisfied.
If it doesn’t lead to satisfaction, it’s a lie and it stains.
The spiral of unsatisfaction that starts with a simple thought/philosophy is the worst torture imaginable. It’s obsessive and unending. Welcome to worldliness….
So how do we REALLY keep unstained?
1 John 5:4 “this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.”
Our trust/faith in the ways of God overcome the ideas and concepts that bring ruin and unfulfillment in our lives. Therefore, Romans 12:2 (MSG) states,
“Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.”