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1 John 2:15-17

Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life – comes not from the Father but from the world.

(verses 15-16)


Again, we come upon a contrasting tension – love of the world vs love of the Father. We can go with one or the other, but not both.

It reminds us of Jesus’ own teaching: “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other” (Matthew 6:24). It reminds us of John’s earlier contrast between light and darkness – since God is light, we cannot have fellowship with him if we continue to walk in darkness. Darkness is in opposition to Light.

So, too, with love of the world.

To understand John’s point, we need to understand what he means by “the world.” The Greek word is “kosmos,” which has a variety of meanings in the New Testament. When John, speaking of Jesus, tells us that “the world was made through him” (John 1:10), he is using the word to refer to the physical creation. When Jesus says, “For God so loved the world” (John 3:16), he’s not speaking about physical rocks and plants, but rather the whole of humanity, who are in God’s sights and cherished by him.

But the word is often used with a more negative connotation. On these occasions it refers to collective human thought and culture and activities that exist (and persist) in opposition to God. When Jesus prays for his disciples in Gethsemane, saying, “The world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world” (John 17:14), he is speaking of the world in this sense. Similarly, when John says that “the whole world is under the control of the evil one” (1 John 5:19), he is using the word in this way.

It's obvious, then, that such love of “the world” is in stark opposition to “love of the Father.” You can’t embrace both.

So, what do we need to watch out for? In a previous generation the issues that would immediately come to mind were drinking, card-playing, make-up, and movie-going. But John gives a different list, not focusing on externals, but rather focusing on the danger of “the world” taking up residence in our own hearts.

Giving us examples of “everything in the world,” John lists the following items: “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.” Each of these comes from within our own hearts. Each can so easily – so readily – be embraced by us, filling our minds and our visions, distracting us from “love of the Father.” Lusts spring up within, growing from our own appetites (sexually, greedily, covetously, self-indulgently). Others get sparked by sightings in the world around us, tempting us to yearn for more, for excess, for what is harmful, for what is not rightly ours. Meanwhile, pride – or, as another translation puts it, “boasting of what (one) has and does” – stokes a fiercely self-centred perspective, cutting us off from others and from God.

All of it comes from within. I think John must have remembered Jesus’ own words: “What comes out of a person is what defiles them. For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come” (Mark 7:20-21). When we allow these to fill our imaginations, control our time, take priority in our planning, or capture our dreams, then we have fallen into “loving the world.”

Don’t do it, John says. Instead, cultivate “love of the Father.” Which means to pray – passionately, authentically – “your kingdom come, your will be done” (Matthew 6:10). It means to “set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God” (Colossians 3:1). It means to focus your “all” on him – “all your heart and all your soul and all your mind and all your strength” (Mark 12:30). It means to embrace his priorities, to practice his presence, to enjoy his fellowship, to pray at all times, to worship him wholly.

Or, as John puts it so simply, it means to “walk in the light” (1 John 1:7).


O Father, would you please capture my mind, my priorities, my passions, my desires. I offer all of it in love for you. I want to walk with you always. I choose to walk in the light. Strengthen me in my inner being, by your Spirit, for this purpose. Amen.



This day, what step(s) can you take to put aside “love of the world” more completely? What step(s) can you take to embrace “love of the Father” more fully?


Photo by Liv Bruce on Unsplash

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