The Bible is very clear that love is an essential part of God’s purpose, desires, and commands. After all, Jesus Christ stated, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this, everyone will know that you are my disciples; if you love one another” (John 13:34-35). John also writes in the famous passage, “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). Matthew writes, “Jesus answered, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.'” (Matthew 22:37-38). Love is an essential part of God’s goodness. However, there is something definite that we are commanded not to love.
Jesus commanded His disciples and followers to “Love one another.” Jesus also stated that the greatest act of love is to lay one’s life down for his friends. This statement, of course, was a future telling of what Jesus would do for the world. Either way, there is a great emphasis on loving one another. In my last post, I discussed the goal for humanity: “Live with love for God and one another and all creation” (Drimalla and The Bible Project). Love is at the center of everything, but the Bible is also clear that we should abstain from loving something very specific with every fiber of our being.
“Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever” (1 John 2:15-17).
If you are like me, you just read that and thought, “But God loves the world, and He called us to be like Him. Why are we being told not to love the world?” Some might see this as a contradiction in the Bible. Let me assure you, there is no contradiction. We must understand what “World” John is talking about.
“World” in the New Testament is translated as kosmos. The Bible uses three definitions for “World .”First, “World” can refer to the physical world. This contains the Earth, creation, and the cosmos. This can be seen in verses such as Matthew 4:14, 13:38, and Acts 17:24. The second use for “World” refers to those who inhabit the Earth, humanity. John 1:10 shows how kosmos can be used in multiple ways. “He was in the world (Earth), and the world (Earth) was made through Him, and the world (humanity) did not know Him.” The third definition of “World” refers to abstract things that have spiritual and moral or immoral values. Paul uses this terminology in 1 Corinthians 1:20, 2:6, and 3:19. This terminology is also what John uses in 1 John 2:15-17.
We are called to love the world – humanity. Jesus said that the world would know we are His disciples by the love we share. There is, however, a love that we should never entertain. John wrote, “Do not love the world nor the things in the world.” There is an unseen war that is taking place all around us. This war is fought in the spiritual realm between the YHWH and the prince of this world, Satan. The earth is filled with deception, temptation, lust, and immorality. These are the things of this world. Satan uses these to entice humanity away from the goodness of God. The ways of the world are divisive, destructive, and deadly. As John stated, “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life is not from the Father, but from the world” (1 John 2:16). All of those things are from the one who opposes YHWH. Those things are what place our wants and desires over the wants of God the Father.
Notice that John says three specific things that come from the world – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the boastful pride of life. The first two deal with inner desires. The third one is all about outward desires. All of them are heart issues.
The lust of the flesh pertains to the sexual desires of humanity. Our society is overrun with sexual immorality, and sexual immorality is more than sex. Sexual immorality is anything outside the design and order that God intended. For example, “God created mankind in His own image, in the image of God He created them; male and female He created them” (Genesis 1:27). This is God’s original design and order. It was the ways of this world that perverted this design and made it something that it was never meant to be. The ways of the world have twisted, corrupted, and degraded the natural, God-given design for false ideologies and lies. Paul speaks to this in Romans 1:
“For since the creation of the world, God’s invisible qualities – His eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts became darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles. Therefore, God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator – who is forever praised. Amen” (Romans 1:20-25).
Humanity rejected the ways of God for the ways of the world. We began to love the world’s ways, rather than to love God. It has become so perverse that humanity no longer sees gender as God intended. Instead, it is seen as a social construct in which people can identify as whatever they want. Paul explains what happened because of humanity’s love for the ways of the world: “Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones, In the same way, the men also abandoned natural relations with men and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error” (Romans 1:26-27). The ways of the world says, “Do what you feel is right. Ignore the truth and create your truth. You get to decide what is true and what isn’t,” and most importantly, the ways of the world say, “You are god, and that is all you need.”
The second idea that John states for the ways of the world is the “lust of the eyes.” To lust after something is to want it with every fiber of your being. The lust of the eyes refers to wanting what we see. This could be material and monetary possessions and even personal physical desires. Sin comes when the desires of the eyes overtake us and make them our idols of worship. This doesn’t mean money or wanting to own a house is bad. It becomes a problem when all we think about and want to do is pursue the lust of the eyes. The prince of this world will use the world’s ways to turn our eyes and desires away from YHWH. This is why it is essential that we become spiritually aware of what becomes our main focus and desire.
The third idea that John states for the ways of the world is the “pride of life.” The first two are inner habits; the third idea is an outward habit. The pride of life can be summed up with one term – selfishness. In the Garden of Eden, the first humans lived peacefully with God. They served God and each other. It wasn’t until the Deceiver and Father of Lies convinced them that they were more important than each other and the God they served. This lie brought about the pride of life.
Humanity has bought into the lie that the self is more important than anything else. This was never the intent of God’s design. When God made man and woman, He stated, “It is not good for man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him. Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and He brought her to the man. That is why a man leaves his Father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh” (Genesis 2:15, 22, 24). We are meant to serve and be helpers to each other. A husband and wife are to become one flesh. This means neither is more significant than the other. Jesus took this deeper when eating the Passover Festival with His disciples before his arrest and crucifixion. While eating, Jesus got up, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. He then went to each of His disciples and washed their feet. Jesus said, “I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them” (John 13:15-17).
We are told not to love the ways of the world. The world refers to abstract things with spiritual and moral or immoral values. The prince of this world uses the ways of the world to detract humanity from loving and believing in Jesus Christ and YHWH. The ways of this world make us think that what we want is better and more satisfying than the ways of God. Ultimately, we choose to be the god of our own life rather than allowing the Creator God to be the Lord of our life. The lies of the world subvert the truth. And what is truth? God gave us the answer in Isaiah, “I am the Lord, and there is no other; apart from me there is no God!” (Isaiah 45:5a). No matter how badly we want to be our own gods, the truth is that there is only one God.
James said, “You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God” (James 4:4). Let us learn to love God and each other and despise the ways of this world. Let us make YHWH the Lord of our life and seek Him. Let us turn our ears to the voice of Truth and deny the lies from the prince of this world. Let us learn to love that which is good.
Drimalla, S., & BibleProject Team. 2023. What Are Sin, Iniquity, and Transgression in the Bible?. https://bibleproject.com/blog/sin-iniquity-and-transgression-in-the-bible/