30 December 2011

1 John 2:12-17

"Do not love the world or the things in the world. The love of the Father is not in these who love the world." (v. 15)


"God so loved the world that he gave his only Son" (John 3:16). In a week when we are celebrating God's ultimate expression of God's love for the world - the gift of the baby Jesus - it comes as something of a shock to be told to "not love the world or the things in the world". It is helpful to acknowledge that the word "world" is being used to describe two different things.

God's love for the world as expressed in God's coming amongst us - the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ - ought to make us more 'worldly' or more 'materialistic'. That is, in becoming human, God has affirmed the world, creation and all that God has made. God has displayed a willingness to engage with creation and be embodied and embedded within the mundane matter of our everyday lives.

This embodiment is the inspiration for the work of the Church in seeking to make the world a better place. It is the pattern for the Church's engagement with its context and the motivation for its struggling for justice, peace and reconciliation. It's the reason why Christianity is not about 'pie in the sky when you die' and why the Church believes in 'life before death'.

The "world" referred to today's passage is not this world which God so loved - rather it is a euphemism for the "darkness" spoken of earlier in the letter (eg 1 John 2:11), for example, "the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eyes, the pride in riches" (v. 16). These also need some unpacking, of course, but they represent the darker side of human nature and the transient, superficial things which can distract from the things of God which will "live forever" (v. 17). It is these distractions we are not to love!

To Ponder

"I want my sun-drenched, wind-swept Ingrid Bergman kiss; not in the next life, I want it in this." (from Good as Gold (Stupid as Mud), The Beautiful South). In the light of the above what might this lyric mean for your understanding of Christian faith?

What are you involved in that is helping to make the world a better place? And how does Christian faith inform what you are doing?

In what ways are you sometimes distracted from those things which will last - the things of God?

Bible notes author

The Revd Graham Jones

Graham Jones is a Methodist presbyter serving as a member of the Discipleship and Ministries Learning Network in the Yorkshire Plus region of the Methodist Church, with particular responsibility for ministry development. Graham is committed to developing ministry in its broadest sense, enabling both lay and ordained to live out their vocations, and to share in God's mission in the most fulfilling and effective ways.