Some choices require exclusivity. If I commit to being with my spouse, then I also commit to "forsake all others." Being a believer in Christ requires a similar exclusivity. In 1 John 2:15-17, we learn that if we give our hearts to God, we cannot also give them to the world.
What does it mean to love the world?
In order to know whether we love the world, we have to know what "the world" means in this context. As John is using the word, it does not refer to God's good, created order or other people. Instead, "the world" refers to a world system opposed to God and ruled by Satan. It is a system that glorifies selfishness, pride, and greed. It is a system that undermines and rebels against God. In verse 16, John defines the world as "the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life." The first two are really one idea -- that of misdirected or twisted love and desire. The second has to do with boasting in our possessions and accomplishments.
What does it mean to love God?
John has already told us in his letter that God is light and God is life. To be devoted to God is to be devoted to the way of light that Jesus modeled, to be devoted to His truth and His glory. Loving God overflows into love for one another -- love that seeks the other's welfare. And instead of boasting in what we do or have, those who love God boast only in God and His provision.
What drives us?
Two good questions to ask when examining the focus of our own love are: "What do you daydream about?" and "What sets off your emotions?" The answers to those questions may tell us a lot about our true motivations and the direction of our desire. Remember, desire is not bad. God gave it to us for a reason. But He designed us to be most fulfilled in Him.
Wherever we invest our love, we will invest our lives. The return on our investment in the world will ultimately come up empty. But God rewards with His very self, in the fullness of joy in His presence that we can experience now and in all of eternity. Christ's Kingdom can never be shaken. He is worth the investment of our love.
Questions to Consider
- Do I find the most fulfillment in my belongings and accomplishments or in God?
- Is my desire directed toward God or toward the empty promises of a sin-infected world?
- What do my thoughts turn to effortlessly, and what does that tell me about the direction of my love?
- What causes me the most pain, anger, fear, or joy, and how can that instruct me in the direction of my love?