The world is worldly. Shocking, isn’t it? The mass of people in this world will approach life from a worldly viewpoint, and do worldly things. Even when they claim a spiritual element in their lives, it’s just an element. It’s often compartmentalized so that “spiritual stuff” is confined to a certain range of activities acceptable to this world.
We don’t go along with that. Of course, the biggest single problem we have is defining how the New Testament uses the term “worldly.” It depends on which English translation you prefer, but the concept shows up prominently in a few places:
Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. (James 4:4 NKJV)
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 lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life — is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever. (1 John 2:15-17 NKJV)
What isn’t immediately clear to folks who read it in English is that the entire Western frame of reference is one of the best definitions of worldliness. I suppose some may get tired of hearing about that, but this is a core element of our teaching: Western Civilization arose in defiance of revelation. Worse, the organized Church was complicit, falsely enrobing the core mythology as approved by Christ.
I’m going to skip the normal pattern on this blog for a moment and jump into the next lesson in our series on Teachings of Christ — Luke 17:1-4. The first thing you notice is the warning Jesus gives to His disciples: There is no way we can avoid encountering human sin in this world. In the particular context of the previous lessons in our series, we know that Jesus is referring to the leadership of the scribes and Pharisees. Within their society at that time, the scribes and Pharisees were the single largest manifestation of worldliness. And while God will bring wrath onto them for that, He also warns His followers not to be smug about it. Watch out for the sinner in the mirror.
None of us is so spiritually developed that we can just coast along. By implication, we should watch out for the other sinners within our fellowship. None of us is flawless. Penitence is a critical element in daily living for those of us following Christ. One of the primary reasons for congregating is to keep an eye on each other. We are all appointed as shepherds in one sense or another. This is family; we make room for mistakes. The point is the health and welfare of the family, not the stuff families do as seen by outsiders. The world is never going to understand our private communion, so let’s not pretend its opinion matters. Rather, let’s keep the door open for our brothers and sisters to repent, so they can in turn offer the same grace to us when we inevitably fail.
Don’t put anyone on a pedestal. Leadership is not based on perfection, but first a divine calling despite character flaws. Then we look at how the mixture of imperfection and divine grace will affect the family shalom as a consideration of what their leadership role will be. The individual can claim anything they like, but credibility comes by how you build up the shalom through sacrificial love. Every day that you visit this blog, you should be evaluating whether the stuff I write helps or hinders your faith, or if it’s pertinent at all. Your convictions always have the answer.
This is not the way the world does things. The world is obsessed with results in concrete terms. Outsiders evaluate things in terms of presumed logic, based on the mythology of objective reason and facts. And of course, all of this is merely a cover for the lusts of the flesh, lust of the eyes, and boastful pride of life. This is why so many people claim that objective facts back their position, and yet the world always seems to have conflict. Everyone holds forth their own idols as the only true and righteous deities, and themselves as the only true and righteous adherents of that deity.
If we surrender to the worldly system, we are enemies of the God who called us. Jesus described someone who returns truly penitent up to seven times a day on the same kind of mistake. The value that member of the family has is in their love for the family, not the perfection of their performance. There is no single right way to do much of anything, but when something injures shalom, heart-led people can tell. You can’t get that with your reason and facts. Your heart knows when to forgive, so listen to it.
Your heart also knows when someone is trying to pull in worldly considerations, and you need to reject that.