How easy it is for us to loose our focal point becomes sometimes very obvious to us. How often have we said down to “quickly” check our e-mails and found out that we just wasted two full hours on facebook “catching up” with our friends by looking at their crucial updates as to how they felt when the co-worker showed up in a green T-shirt to work (and that on a blue Monday!).
It seems to me that we loose our sense of significance and urgency often in the most mundane things; though the most mundane things might actually be given because of our sense of significance and purpose in life. In other words, I am not writing against being occupied by minor things in life, but that we need to keep a focus on the major thing – the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I am very proud of my brothers and sisters who chose to work in “secular” environments to let the light of Christ shine in those places. We need more Christians who are Christians regardless of our vocation.
Oftentimes we fear our reputation might be smutted in our professional lives when it will be found out that we are follower of the risen Lord; even for me, as a prospective Bible teacher, that fear is present. This might seem a bit odd, but evangelicals are not necessarily looked favorably upon, specifically in my fatherland and in most parts of Europe.
But should such things be our concern? The apostle John has been given words of encouragement in the last couples of verses and now turns to a necessary admonition: Do not love the world or the things in the world!
The love described here is different “from the love (of fellow believers) mentioned in 2:10. There love is focused on the well-being of another, whereas here it is focused on the pleasure and gratification one hopes to receive” (Kruse, PNTC, 94). Also, the term “world” is used by John in many different ways. Here in these verses the rebelliousness of people, their pride, and so forth is to be seen. John uses that term to refer to “humanity organized against God” therefore “it is neither the material world itself nor people per se that should be ‘hated’” (Witherington, 477). I do agree with that observation but need to add that love for material things in the world are strongly warned against here and in 1 Tim 3:3 and specifically 6:10. This does not mean that we cannot have stuff but that we should not focus on those things.
In the last part of verse 15I take the “love of the Father” as primarily an objective genitive meaning that it is our love towards the Father. I hold this view for two reasons: 1) because the phrase is in contrast to “the love of the world” and 2) because I argued for the same in 2:5. The love of the Father is thus the love we have towards God.
To love the world, i.e., the rebellious system of this world, pride, arrogance and so on, is to be in un-love with God. We cannot love both!
In verse 16 John gives the reason why that is so. The three items mentioned, i.e., “the desires of the flesh”, the “desires of the eyes”, and the “pride in possessions”, are contrary to the good source which the Father provides. “Those things which make up the world (as he will define them) [and] are antithetical to God” (Kruse, 95). Secular values and ethics of the culture we live in are normally not that pleasing to God! So we are roughly talking about “sex, money, and power” but as Witherington states “sensuality, materialism, and self-glorification” might be better terms (478; leaning on Dodd, 46). But whom does John have in view? Though all of us are prone the wander off in that direction, we might very well suppose the social elite is in view here, since in the Greco-Roman world there is hardly any middle class (I think none!). See also 1 John 3:17 for a similar understanding.
Yet as Christians we need to look for different values and significance which only God can provide. We cannot (at least no longer) be striving after the world’s ideals and gratifications, specifically because the world is passing away (Paul states in 1 Cor 7:31 “the present form of this world is passing away” which is similar to verse 17).
But what (or better: who) will remain? The one who does the will of God. In the Gospel according to John the apostle “speaks of his doing the will of God five times (4:34; 5:30; 6:38, 39, 40), and in each case it relates in one way or another to his carrying out the mission on which the Father sent him” (Kruse, 97). Here in 1 John it seems to have a different connotation however; it “is the opposite to all that is involved in loving the world. It means avoiding the ‘lust of the eyes’ and ‘pride in possessions’” (idem.). To do the will of God is contrary to that which the apostle just wrote about.
In light of the love command and other aspects which will follow in this letter, we need to hear those words which the apostle is speaking. If we truly love God, we will love his children. The love of “power, sex, and money” (and may I add self-absorption) will not glorify God and shows that we actually do not love the Father.
Though we need to care about our reputation to a certain extent and we need to be careful as to how we present the Gospel and we need to be smart in our conduct in this world, we should never be paralyzed or occupied primarily with those things. The first question we need to ask is not “How will I be perceived by others?” but rather “How does God perceive my actions, thoughts, and words, and what are my perceptions of Him?”. The ultimate Judge is God and not our friends, bosses, parents etc. Therefore let us follow Him by the power and the guidance of the Holy Spirit! How this will look like will be the content of the posts to follow.