As I drove home the other day I heard a song on the radio that brought to my attention many worldly sentiments (when I say “worldly” here I do not necessarily mean carnal rather simply “of this world”). The singer’s voice and the song’s composition were somewhat in the form of alternative/college pop music and had the kind of appeal which brought to the surface certain ideas and values associated with the experience one gets from inclusiveness with the world. The song itself emphasized acceptance, belonging and relating. It was a celebration of both people and the world around us and the empowerment that comes from belonging to such circles.
As I drove along my mind drifted to the muscle car, that had just passed by, with me imagining myself in the driver’s seat to thinking about dinners out at various desirable restaurants with family and friends, to pleasant and indulgent vacations and then on to thoughts of detailed accouterments of this world in which I could cloak myself and from which additional esteem may be earned within this world. In fact my thoughts furthered to selfish images of the envy others may suffer at my possession of such things.
Then I woke up from a call within both of the precipitous and sinful direction such lingering brings. I am not one to make public confessions of such intimate ruminations seeing that discretion is a banner well worth following but on this occasion it serves something greater than personal discretion and that is God’s injunction. We are given a challenging command in Scripture found in 1 John 2:15 which states:
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.
But this does leave the question, how then are we to enjoy this world without loving it? Instead of attempting a very broad and comprehensive examination I want to narrow my response and focus upon a single caveat of the issue.
But first and briefly we must have in view what God means when he talks about the world and the things of the world. He is not speaking of the earth itself which is the creation, rather the system and the things produced from that system.
What system? The system that Satan, the Evil One, the god of this world, has put in place through many means and mechanisms. Remember, while Holy Writ is inspired of God, cosmos diabolicus is just as well inspired by Lucifer. And this system, as Chafer notes, is multifaceted and from this are derived many products which are “things of the world”.
As I described above in my mental wanderings I entered a certain realm of consideration and desire which involved, in the end, a sense of empowerment that comes when we opt for cosmos diabolicus instead of God’s viewpoint and plan. Here is what I mean.
Within the world there is a value system that operates both consciously and subconsciously. And that value system is one which rewards the worldling and punishes the believer. That’s right, it punishes the believer. Our varying media reflect that value system as do many corporations and organizations. You must have the right clothing, the right car, know the right people and be seen in and among them all and do so in a way that does not just satisfy people with you but invokes covetousness because you have what they do not. It is a mental attitude or philosophy that the world not only permits you to be aware of but encourages you to practice. It teaches you to look forward to the jealousy of others as part of your reward for gaining possessions or becoming eminent in this world. There is an empowerment because you have what others want and you and they both know it.
For the Christian, though, the world isn’t here to reward you. Your sacrifices are often considered extreme or naive. Your biblical certainty is ignorance and your modesty boring. Your fidelity is seen as bound in piousness and your acceptance of gender roles archaic, no in fact bigoted. Your morality is intolerance in action and your devotion to God purely your imagination in overdrive. At best you are religious but still, few (if any) worldlings have any interest in inviting a devout Christian to their next party.
So because this is either the conscious or subconscious message believers are bombarded with in this world it isn’t surprising we are tempted to yield, from time to time, to the value system of the world and enjoy some of its acceptance. It feels good to be rewarded by others, particularly a very hostile world that finally is willing to include you if you will simply adhere to some of its values, just enough to hide your Christianity.
But this isn’t how we are to enjoy the world, by accepting in some form, a kind of love for the world or the things in the world. Yes we can own any kind of car (including a muscle car), house, and boat and so on. It is not the owning these things that we must address but why we want them and why we own them. And as I said I am only considering a caveat of a multifaceted ring of principles that should constrain our behavior and direct our choices as believers. Beyond this one issue, whether we gain our positions or possessions because we desire worldly empowerment or inclusion, there are numerous other biblical boundaries which should be applied in making such determinations. But I bring this out simply because of my own recent thoughts and because, while profound spiritual observations are very stimulating and no less necessary, sometimes the practical are much more helpful with regard to our day to day experiences. And too, sometimes in pursuit of higher thoughts we either forget or tend to dismiss as too elementary those fundamental instructions from God which he never intended to be seen as ones we can outgrow.
For the Christian there is only one way to live in this world and that is with a divine viewpoint of everything. God has a system designed for our benefit within the structure of Christ’s body where sound doctrine is both preserved and taught by gifted teachers who will provide for us the communication of God’s viewpoint contained in Scripture. Only through a daily subjection to divine viewpoint can we fight the ever pressing tide of the world’s call to embrace its system. But in responding with divine viewpoint we also gain something so greatly needed, namely the capacity to enjoy this world and the things of this world without loving either.