Jesus has incredible balance in all areas of His life. He provides for us an example and a challenge to follow in His footsteps. If, you are a follower of Christ, like me, you have to wrestle with your relationship and involvement in culture. Our tendency is to stiff-arm culture, but we also must connect with Culture to share Jesus. I find it easy to fall into one of two extremes.
The word “world” in God’s Word has a number of meanings. It is used to describe the blue ball that we live on. And at other times it speaks of people. We also see it used to address the cultural mindset that is opposed and opposing God and His people as well as a few other uses.
A great couplet of verses to memorize is found in the epistle of 1 John. “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.” (1 John 2:15–16) Here, world, is speaking of the anti-God system, that we can refer to as culture. I need to point out that not all culture is anti-God. Culture can be reflected in our taste for foods, out attire that we wear and even many other aspects of life. These practices and preferences are amoral. They are not good or bad. The emphasis in our verse is the aspect of our world that pulls and tempts us to live for ourselves. We could do a deeper dive, but it is this world that, as John reminds us, that we need to distance ourselves from. The portion of culture that puts our focus on ourselves and takes it away from the Lord.
The challenge here, that requires balance, is when the “world” describes the living souls covering the planet. It is here that Jesus reminds us of our need to take a different approach. One of the more well know verses reminds us, God loves people, all people. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16) I am sure you saw this verse coming. But what many of us overlook is what Jesus says next. “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” (John 3:17) It reminds us that Jesus came with a purpose and it was not to judge. Jesus drives this truth home in many areas of His teaching.
Several chapters later, in John’s gospel account, he reminds us of the need to have a mindset to connect with the people around us. “I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness. If anyone hears my words and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world.” (John 12:46–47) The portion underlined jumped off the page as I was reading my Bible. Did you notice that Jesus does not take offense at the rejection of His message? He does not respond with calling down judgment? Or treat with disrespect? No, He responds with grace, mercy and compassion.
This is a profound truth when we consider that we live in a broken world filled with broken people. Jesus was able to remain balanced by focusing on the ministry at hand. There is a powerful lesson for those of us that follow Jesus. Let’s us keep the focus on Jesus. Yes, there is a coming time of judgement, the Bible is very clear about humanities accountability to Him. But our primary ministry now, like Jesus, is to look past the externals and to see a soul that desperately needs a touch from the Creator! Let His example motivate us to display Christlike character and deliver the life changing message that our world desperately needs!
-Pastor Joe Parkinson