“Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15). When we read this we begin thinking, “What does this love include?” There are certainly things in this world that I love. How could God create a beautiful planet and tell us not to love it? There are people in this world, even those who are not members of the Lord’s church, who I love dearly. There are innocent objects in this world that hold a sentimental value to me. What does it mean to not have love for this world or things in this world?
It is helpful to see how John uses this word “world” in his writings. It can refer to various things. This is highlighted in his gospel account. “He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him” (John 1:10). Here it refers to both the created world and a group of people in the world. Even in this context it is clear that the whole world did not reject Him (John 1:12-13). So, the world here refers to the “cosmos” of people that rejected Him. Two different contexts in the same verse.
In the first letter of John, we see the word used twenty-three times in the small book. We see it being used as the source of evil. “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world” (1 John 2:16). False prophets are in the world (1 John 4:1). The evil one is in the world (1 John 2:14; 4:4; 5:19). Still, Christ died for the whole world (1 John 2:2; 4:9, 14). The world is portrayed as this corrupted creation, perverse to its original design, but God sent His Son to redeem those that would come out of the world. We are to be as Christ was in this world. We are in it physically but spiritually abiding in or in communion with God (1 John 4:16-17).
What does that mean for my love for things in the world? Our chief attention and affection should be reserved for God and those things that are from above (Matt. 22:37; 6:33). It is possible to love His creation. We can have an affinity for the simple pleasures that are afforded to us. We are commanded to love our neighbors even if they don’t agree with us religiously, politicly, socially, or even morally. However, our love for this love stops at whatever is corrupted or torn out of its original use. In general, that includes the lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, and the pride of life (1 John 2:16). Anything that is out of step with God’s purpose or intent is perverse and corrupted (Eph. 4:22). We need to evaluate things that we love under the microscope of its purpose and end. May we never live on the edge of what is acceptable but flee the immoral (1 Cor. 6:18).