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 desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.
1 John 2:15-17
Surely it was a momentary madness. The Saturday before Christmas, we needed to “run” an errand to the mall! Our strike was planned with military precision. I was to leap from the truck and enter through a side door. My accomplice wife would continue in the parking parade while I made for the escalator. Ascend to the second floor, straight through, and out onto the mall. Then, just a few paces off to the left, in an eddy, the merchant would be waiting. Our package could be retrieved and escape made good by backtracking quickly. Communicate with the transport to rendezvous, hoist in, and be gone.
But as is always true, the shock of the mission was unsettling, no matter the rehearsal, no matter the plan. On the escalator, not quite to the top, the view was breathtaking, in a stunning, sad sort of way. There was Christmas. As far as I could see in every direction, people and posters lured shoppers like the ancient Lorelei. At the foot of the escalator, a churchman fondled bangles for his bride. There was a frantic, frenetic feel, with more frowns than smiles, and all of it soaked in the ubiquitous, agonizingly sticky “rum, pum, pum pum” oozing from the sound system. Christmas? Really? But don’t stop to think! Hurry on! We’ve more to do, we’ve more to do!
The apostle John is an old man when he writes to his churches. He was the “Son of Thunder,” who wanted to call down destruction on an entire town. His scheming mother spoke to Jesus on behalf of her boys, proposing their prestige in the coming kingdom. Then John had leaned against the Lord on the night in which He was betrayed, had stood at the foot of the cross, had taken Mary home. John saw the empty tomb, peering in at the dank blackness that once held the Lord. Jesus was alive, and John was now a changed man—a man of prayer, a humble servant of his King.
John writes of love. He speaks of it more than all the other New Testament writers combined. He writes of love because he knows of love. And he tells his churches that there is no middle ground, no neutral zone, no halfway. The value structure of the Kingdom of God is completely, unalterably, eternally different from everything the world had taught him to value.
John will soon meet his Savior again in glory, so he pleads with the people of God to recognize the radical transformation that the Gospel brings. John says that to love the world is to be on the side of decay. But to love God because He loved you first leads to living from the value system of the Forever Kingdom.
So in the embers of Christmas just past, John’s words are not merely a ranting cliché against materialism, or Santa Claus, or fake Christmas trees. He calls us to ask, “What really do I value? What really do I love?” John calls us to remember that in the Kingdom we claim as ours, the last shall be first; we must lose in order to gain; the other cheek is turned; the tunic is given also; the meek inherit the earth.
Truly, if you are in Christ, you are not of this world. You have been re-made by the power and the love of an incarnate, itinerate, homeless King. Will you obey His call,—to live His life, based on His values, for His glory? As the new year dawns, pray for the wisdom to see the places where the world’s stains still cling. Pray for the Lord’s strength to live out the character of the new creation that you are in Christ.
Happy New Year. Soli Deo Gloria!