By Ninos Hadjirousou
There are moments in our Christian walk when we meet some professing Christians acting sometimes, as if they enjoy spending time with the activities of the unbeliever. And without proper diligent discernment, Christians fall into the trap of ‘openness’ to things which result in practicing and participating in ungodliness. They may be deceived thinking that what other immature Christians do, is also ok doing. Now, this subject can be sometimes very obvious to point out what is ungodly and what isn’t. Yet sometimes it is very difficult to point out straightaway what will result in evil and what will result in good.
There are things which are obviously evil like murder, adultery, lying and theft. These are fundamentally evil. But there are things which are not evil in themselves, but to an extent, depending on how one uses them can become sinful, such as sports, music, television, art, dancing, traveling etc.
The question that you need to ask is: where do I draw the line? How far or how much is sinful or not? And how can I know if I am becoming a ‘worldly’ Christian? The first principle for each one of these questions is to seek the answer in God’s inspired, infallible and inerrant Word, the Bible (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
What is worldliness?
It is written: “know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.” James 4:4
“Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
1 John 2:15
The word that we read in the chosen text that I have placed above, indicate to us that being open and welcoming the world causes division between us and God.
So the first principle is to know that:
Friendship with the world, which does not know God and does not obey Him, is hostile to God.
But then we must ask, in what way does God mean the ‘world’? The word “world” (kosmos) is used in a narrow sense and in a broader sense to be understood figuratively and literally.
The meaning cannot only mean literally that Christian cannot be in the world we live in, for that would contradict what God has already commanded his followers to do: “Go ye therefore and teach all nations” (Matthew 28). Otherwise, we would not have evangelism. We are supposed to be in the world, to live for the glory of God in the midst of unbelievers. How else will they believe and see the glory of Christ working in us? So it cannot be used here in a literal sense only. It cannot be that we are to separate ourselves from the world (literally) all together, that would be naïve.
Thus, ‘world’ here means those things in the world which are hostile to the commandments of God and His nature. As one commentator wrote, the world is “Fallen human nature acting itself out in the human family; moulding and fashioning the framework of human society in accordance with its own tendencies. It is fallen human nature making the ongoings of human thought, feeling, and action its own.”
Now as we have said earlier, there are things which in themselves are clearly evil. But there are things in themselves which are not evil at all. So the question is how can we know what to separate from if it becomes hostile to God? How can we draw the line on things which are not evil but have the potential of becoming evil?
Secondly, we must beware of loving the world.
If we examine the text in John’s epistle, he begins writing “Love not the world” “if any man love the world”. The word ‘love’ here is used to describe the love that is in the heart. It is unconditional love, it is devotional love, it is wholehearted love, it is sympathetic to the things of this world and it has feelings and emotions attached and embedded with it. John is talking concerning our behaviour when we begin to love the world (verse 15).
As Christians we first realise that we have been saved by God from sin and death. Sin and death are part of the system of this world that we came out of. The Apostle Paul commands Christians to put on the armour of God against the devil who is the master of the dark world and its influences (Ephesians 6:12). For example, what is considered as righteous and noble seems strange to the world. Because what is right for the world is evil in the sight of God. The world deceives by redefining that which is truly evil by making it seem noble and good. The ‘love’ of the ‘world’ here in 1 John 2:15-16 is talking our behaviour or loyalty of the lifestyle or the values and character of the world itself. If one “loves”, that is, they finds pleasure and delight in things in the world, as one who professes to be Christian, then they do not consistently show love and loyalty to God. Those systems and values are closely connected with our fallen human desires and mind-set.
Those who are closely linked with the love of the world in them, according to John “speak they of the world, and the world heareth them”(1 John 4:5). Though they may profess to be Christians, their language deceives them and others around them in their witnessing. Such people who speak well of the system and the ideologies of the world are desiring acceptance of both Christ and the world. But they bear false witness of Him and the truth of Christianity. Their way of reasoning things out, whether we may watch a movie or listen to song is done according to the worldly wisdom. And they approve it. They are not scripturally grounded and do not consider the nature of God; whom they profess to serve! Worldliness is seen when one loves and is loyal to things which the world loves. So the world loves them (John 15:19) and sees them approving things which anyone who is not Christian would accept. Sometimes, this is in order to gain approval of others in fear of rejection. But the Apostle Paul was rejected because he wasn’t trying to negotiate and please men (Galatians 1:10). For he did not love the world, nor the things in it.
Now what things are there in the world to love? When John talks about loving the world, specifically the things in it are connected with the character of the world itself. They are things which are sinful or can become sinful. It hates Christianity and does not take sin so seriously. Thus, if we love this way of reasoning and behaviour towards sin and evil, then we show our acceptance and loyalty to the things of this world.
 Robert Gandlish, Geneva Series Commentary 1 John, Banner of Truth, third edition 1993, p.144