Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. (1 John 2:15 ESV)
Christians enjoy a unique status in this life. On one hand they “have passed from death to life” (John 5:24) and are already “seated in heavenly places” (Ephesians 2:6), belonging to a kingdom “not of this world” (John 18:36); on the other hand, believers are sent “into all the world” (Matthew 28:18) and still deal with the reality of “this present time” (Romans 8:18). Someone has suggested that Christians are “people of the future living in the present.” While our true home is in heaven with Christ, our present time holds us in the tension between the already and the not yet.
Throughout his epistle, John exhorts his readers about the importance of love. As we’ve seen, God is love and love comes from God (1 John 4:8). The one who does not love does not know God. Clearly, love is a priority and the first evidence of one’s salvation. In our text, 1 John 2:15-17, however, John says “do not love.” What are Christians not to love? The world.
The supernatural love that we receive from God is to be first directed back toward him in a personal relationship; it then flows out to other believers who are our true brothers and sisters in Christ. That love, though, is not to be given to this word. This does not mean we are not to have godly compassion on the world as God does. If we keep in mind John’s definition of love (based on the love of Christ), then Christians are exhorted to not sacrifice their precious time on worldly things, namely, “the desires of the flesh, and the desires of the eyes, and pride in possessions” (1 John 2:16).
Many a sermon has used this text as a springboard against worldliness, and indeed it is a strong admonition against such. However, we must keep in mind that our terms must be defined by scripture, not cultural trends. What is considered “worldly” by one Christian may not be considered such by another. Our time in this text does not seek to provide a list of what behaviors are worldly. We will instead focus on the heart. A heart that is wrapped up in the things of this world cannot also be filled with the Father’s love. Rather than discuss choices in dress and music and entertainment we will be challenged to take inventory of our hearts and ask whether or not we truly love this world.
As Christians, we walk the line between heaven and earth. The things of this world will try to capitvate your heart. But remember, “the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.” (1 John 2:17)