“And everything I’ve taught you is so that the peace which is in me will be in you and will give you great confidence as you rest in me.”
There seems to be opposing ideas in the Biblical text about what we are to do and be in the world, and to the world. On the one hand, John 3:16 says:
“For this is how much God loved the world—he gave his one and only, unique Son as a gift.”
And then there are other verses that say stuff like this:
1 John 2:15-17(TPT):
“Don’t set the affections of your heart on this world or in loving the things of the world. The love of the Father and the love of the world are incompatible. For all that the world can offer us—the gratification of our flesh, the allurement of the things of the world, and the obsession with status and importance – none of these things come from the Father but from the world. This world and its desires are in the process of passing away, but those who love to do the will of God live forever.“
1 John 5:3-5 (TPT):
“You see, every child of God overcomes the world, for our faith is the victorious power that triumphs over the world. So who are the world conquerors, defeating its power? Those who believe that Jesus is the Son of God.“
“For many faith proclaiming people (myself first and foremost), we have been perpetuating the very system we claim to be fighting.”
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John 16:33 (TPT):
“And everything I’ve taught you is so that the peace which is in me will be in you and will give you great confidence as you rest in me. For in this unbelieving world you will experience trouble and sorrows, but you must be courageous, for I have conquered the world!”
So. Do we love the world? Conquer it? Divorce ourselves from it? Fear it? Fight it? Embrace it? Give ourselves to it as a gift?
Ignoring the nuance and context of the scriptures, we’ve dumped all meanings of the word “world” into one: we have taken “the world” to mean people and cultures and groups. Everyone who doesn’t agree, get across the line, say the creeds, do the deeds, and become a born-again Christian. Those people and their ways are the ‘world,' and we are not to be like them. They and their “ways” are to be conquered.
Here’s the thing: I’ve known Pastors who have been abusers. I’ve known ‘non-Christians’ who have helped me heal. I’ve known Christians and those who aren’t do all kinds of different things, both good and bad, not necessarily sticking to the script of the label “in the world but not of the world.”
And here’s the thing: there is not a passage of scripture in the entire biblical text that says: be in the world but not of it.
In a Biblical context, the “world” means something different.
There are two different worlds: one is a collective global community:
The one that is made up of all different kinds of people from all different walks of life – including you and me. Human hearts. This is the world that Christ loves and gave himself for.
The other world – the one we are meant to conquer and resist – is something else entirely.
It’s the system. Not people, not human hearts: but the structure and hierarchy of dominion, control, and separateness. Us verses them. I’m right, and you’re wrong. The world that tries to divorce the holy from those God has declared so. That is the world that needs conquering. For many faith proclaiming people (myself first and foremost), we have been perpetuating the very system we claim to be fighting.
How do we know the difference between the two? As John 16:33 says, you must learn to follow the peace…
Take some time today to swap the word “world” for “the system” in the above verses about conquering. What does that do to your perspective? I’d love to hear from you about it. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Written by Liz Milani