Some Christians seem to be very angry at the world. There is an interesting dynamic Jesus had with his First Century Palestinian world. He seemed to walk a fine line between living in the world and rising above it. What does Jesus teach us about our attitude toward the world?
Did Jesus Tell us to Hate the World?
Some Christians take the words of Jesus in Mark 13:13 very seriously:
“Everyone will hate you because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.”
This causes them to take an adversarial stance against anyone they perceive to be outside the Christian faith.
After all, Jesus predicted persecution for his disciples – “They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, the time is coming when anyone who kills you will think they are offering a service to God” (John 16:2), and he told them, “Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death” (Matt. 10:21).
That doesn’t sound good.
And John said, “Do not be surprised, my brothers and sisters, if the world hates you” (1 John 3:13).
Jesus’ reasoning is that if the world hated him and we are his followers, it stands to reason, that they would hate us.
But, Jesus also said, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
So, what does Jesus (and in this case, John) mean when they use the word “world”?
It’s one of John’s favorite words. He uses kosmos (world) 55 times in his gospel and a whopping 17 times in his three brief letters. That means that John uses the word kosmos three and half times more than any other single writer in the entire Bible. Obviously, it was an important word for John.
The World System
Even a cursory study of the way John uses the word – both in his gospel and in his letters – reveals that he did NOT mean the people in the world. He was talking about something else.
We get a clue in 1 John 2:16 – he said that the world is the source of – lust of the flesh (moral corruption), lust of the eyes (evil intentions), and pride of life (self-consumption).
John is painting a picture of what he calls “the world” and it is a world system steeped in darkness. It is a philosophy, a world-view, a way of living that is a product of the FALL and the brokenness of things.
Moral corruption, evil intentions, self-consumption – these form the framework for the worldview that Jesus simply calls “the world.”
This is what he says in 1 John 4:1-3 –
Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.”
There is a spirit in the world that is antithetical to the spirit of Jesus. It is this spirit (and not the people) that we are to reject.
BUT, in the very next verse, John gives us the Good News – “You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world” (1 John 4:4).
A mark of a disciple of Jesus Christ is that of one who lives as if he has already overcome the spirit of this world.
John said that the gravest danger is that the thing you are building your life on is passing away. It’s going to turn to dust.
“The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever” (1 John 2:17).
A mark of a disciple of Jesus Christ is that of a person who builds his life on the things that never pass away.
When you go from following the spirit of the world to following the spirit of Jesus it rocks your world. It is a paradigm shift that turns everything upside down.
Jesus said that the first would be last and the last would be first (Matt. 20:16), the greatest the least and the least the greatest (Luke 9:48).
And we think, Oh, how nice.
No. Not nice at all. It’s awful. Especially, if you’ve spent your life building something for yourself. Especially if you’ve lived your entire life building a house of cards on the sand.
- Do you live in fear or are you living as one who has already overcome the world?
- Are you investing your life in the things that are eternal?