Tuesday, April 19, 2011

What in the World?

I posted a few days ago, on facebook and twitter, the following bit of wisdom- “Too often we train our children to make their way in the world. I want to train my children to make war on the world.” In the days that have passed I have been asked by several different people not what such training would look like, not how my children make war on the world, not what are the weapons of their warfare, but what do I mean by “the world.”

That expression, the world, is in fact used in different ways in the Bible. Sometimes it refers to the whole of the created order. Sometimes it refers to the whole of humanity, as in John 3:16. Other times, however, it refers clearly to the city of man, to the army of the serpent. When John warns us that “If anyone loves the world the love of the Father is not in him” (I John 2:15) he is not suggesting that God’s love for the world in John 3:16 means that the love of the Father is not in the Father. Here “world” refers to the world system, that realm of darkness out of which we have been called.

It is a sure sign of our worldliness that warring with the world is seen as someone unspiritual, rather than the zenith of spiritual maturity. We have come to believe that we love the world in a John 3:16 sense by loving the world in a I John 2:15 sense, and the devil just laughs.

I understand the temptation. The very first time I broke open the Word publicly, when I was 9, I followed in the same path. At Bible camp I had been chosen by my cabin to be counselor for the day. My duties included leading evening devotions. My brilliant theme? What if, I wondered, the biblical account of creation, and the scientific theory of evolution could both be true?!?!? And so that evening I shared by insights with my little troop. My hope was that not only might I not offend anyone but I might help my charges not to offend others in the future.

CS Lewis, in his brilliant Screwtape Letters, warns us against the temptation of Christianity and… It doesn’t matter what we add. Vegetarianism, socialism, nudism, libertarianism, if added to the Christian faith will swallow the Christian faith. He was right. But there is another danger, Christianity minus… We are always looking for ways to make keep the faith, and lose its hard edges. Nowhere is this more so than our desire to hold on the faith, and jettison the truth that we will be hated by the world. Every generation we find new ways to try the same folly. Hipster Christianity is just a younger demographic of the same spirit that wafts through Willow Creek and Saddleback. Let us remove the offense, and keep, what exactly?

What the world hates about us isn’t our conservative politics. It isn’t our disapproval of their sexual escapades. It isn’t our insistence in disbelieving Darwin. What the world hates about us is Jesus in us. If they don’t hate us, John is telling us, Jesus isn’t in us. There is no safe, reasonable, palatable Christian faith. There is only faith and unbelief. If the world does not hate you, fear for your soul. If the world does hate you, blessed are you for great is your reward in heaven.


Caleb said...

R.C., I enjoyed this read - thank you. Thinking along these lines I would like to hear your thoughts on Proverbs 16:7. I've always had a hard time with this scripture and the fact that the world will hate us if we live godly. I guess I'm trying to find the balance here. Thanks...

R.C. said...

I would argue that like much of Proverbs, this is proverbial, and also likely ultimately from within the context of the covenant community. "Neighbors" to the reader of Proverbs are fellow citizens of Judah. Still, a time for everything under the sun.

David Cameron said...

Dear RC, please be assured I don't hate Jesus in you. But please understand that i do VERY MUCH hate your conservative politics, and I really from the bottom of my soul hate your anti-intellectual embracing of demonstrable falsehoods like creationism. Please don't embrace such loathesome stupidities and then comfort yourself by saying people's real problem is with Jesus. It's not. Really. Scout's honor. The compassionate and prophetic and downright arrest life and teachings of Jesus are deeply provocative to even the most ironic North-easterner. We're FINE with JC. It's your inane smugness that gets our goat.