Posted: 02 Dec 2010 11:00 PM PST
ONE MIGHT WELL WONDER WHY God should be praised for loving the world (John 3:16) when Christians are forbidden to love it (1 John 2:15–17).
The world, as is habitually the case in John and 1 John, is the moral order in rebellion against God. When we are told that God loves the world, his love is to be admired because the world is so bad. God's love is the origin of his redemptive work. While his holiness entails his wrath (John 3:36), his character as love (1 John 4:8, 16) calls into being his redemptive mission.
What God forbids in 1 John 2:15–17, however, is something quite different. God loves the world with the holy love of redemption; he forbids us to love the world with the squalid love of participation. God loves the world with the self-sacrificing love that costs the Son his life; we are not to love the world with the self-seeking love that wants to taste all the world's sin. God loves the world with the redemptive power that so transforms individuals they no longer belong to the world; we are forbidden to love the world with the moral weakness that wishes to augment the number of worldlings by becoming full-fledged participants ourselves. God's love for the world is to be admired for its unique combination of purity and self-sacrifice; ours incites horror and disgust for its impurity and rapacious evil.
The world that John envisages in these verses is not pretty. It is characterized by all the lusts of our sinful natures ("the cravings of sinful man," 1 John 2:16), all the things from without that assault us and tempt us away from the living God ("the lust of the eyes," 1 John 2:16), all the arrogance of ownership, dominance, and control ("the boasting of what he has and does," 1 John 2:16). None of this comes from the Father but from the world.
But Christians make their evaluations in the light of eternity. "The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever" (1 John 2:17). Pity the person whose self-identity and hope rest on transient things. Ten billion years into eternity, it will seem a little daft to puff yourself up over the car you now drive, the amount of money or education you have received, the number of books you owned, the number of times you had your name in the headlines. Whether or not you have won an Academy Award will then prove less important than whether or not you have been true to your spouse. Whether or not you were a basketball star will be less significant than how much of your wealth you generously gave away. The one "who does the will of God lives forever" (1 John 2:17).
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