As I mentioned in the last post, there is one other place in 1 John 2 that talks about love.
“Do not love the world or 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, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.” 1 John 2:15-17
Here the writer uses the concept of love in a more figurative sense, but the principles for us are just at powerful. Obviously, the prohibition against loving the world is not talking about the wonders of God’s creation. There is nothing wrong with praising the Creator for the majesty demonstrated by His creation all around us and marveling at its beauty. This passage is also not forbidding us from loving the people in the world. Earlier in this chapter we are told to love our brethren and in Matthew 5:44 we are told to love our enemies. This verse is talking about the world in the sense of the system of thinking that is without God, focused on selfish desires, as described in verse 16 above: “…the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life…”
The message is this: If we arrange our affections and focus our lives on pleasing ourselves and embracing the temptations that are all around us, there is no room in our hearts for the love of God. Remember:
“No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” Matthew 6:24
“And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:30-31
It is interesting to note that in these passages there is no middle ground. We either commit ourselves to the love of God or to the love of ourselves. We cannot have it both ways. It is a sobering question to ask ourselves. What is really most important to me? It is a question that is answered by the choices we make in life. We can try to ignore the question. We can even refuse to think of the question. But the question is still answered by how we live our lives.
Another trap we can fall into is one of pretending. I can claim to love the Lord with all my heart and I might even put on a good act, but in the end it won’t matter. Wherever my heart is will be evidenced in my life and the choices I make. God will know and I will not do a very good job of fooling others for long either.
There is an expression I like. I don’t know where it comes from. I may have heard it somewhere. It goes like this: “We are most vulnerable to the lies we tell ourselves.” We may even convince ourselves that we are totally committed to God, but the Lord knows the difference. This is where relationships with our brethren are so valuable to help us see through our own vulnerabilities. Remember Hebrews 10:24.
“And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works,” Hebrews 10:24
Think of it this way. We choose to love God or embrace the passions of selfishness. There is no middle ground. One precludes the other.
What do you think about these things?
In the next post I am planning to study some of the other places in 1 John that talk about love in practice.
Until next time…