Hello Church Devotion Aug.28, 2013

W is for World

“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.” John 15:18-19 NIV

The world is a massive place with approximately 7 billion people living today. As enormous as the world is, we live in a time where things seem somewhat smaller in size. With technologies like the plane, internet, satellite communication, etc. we are able to connect and link up with people in a split second from anywhere (well, almost anywhere) in the world. Being so well connected has changed the dynamic of social and cultural interactions. The once prolific ‘melting pot’ effect of the U.S. has started to give way to more of a ‘salad bowl’ effect in which people keep their cultural roots and stay connected more with the world they grew up in.

All of us, no matter where we are from or where we end up have cultural roots and family histories. We have things that define us and differences that sometimes cause quarrels. But now more than ever we are more aware of the challenges and struggles that people face on any given day. There is an apparent shift to be tolerant of all people and all differences. This tolerance is often veiled as love and kindness. Now on the surface that seems good and very much like something we should get behind, but it seems the world in this push for love has forgotten a key component of the world’s existence, God. The world wants us to forget our brokenness and seek to dig out of the old decrepit ways that cause wars and famines. Yet we must not overlook the world and ourselves for what we truly our, sinners. You see, John 1:10-13 says, “He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.”

The world in its sin would have us believe that we can pull ourselves up from our fallen realities. It would have us believe that if we just teach love and tolerance, and accept everything that we agree is not bad then things will get better. The world is missing the truth that stares us in the face. We are sinners and apart from God we can do nothing good in ourselves. Yes, there are times in culture where it seems the world gets it right, we come together despite religious differences and pick each other up. But in the midst of these good, even great acts of kindness we can miss the temporal nature and worldly perspective at their foundation that ultimately misses the big picture.

These acts of kindness aren’t bad in themselves but they can lack an eternal perspective. “Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done (Matthew 16:24-27, NIV).” Here you have a question that smacks us straight in the face, verse 26, “what good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul?” Yet, how often do we applaud and let the world lift up and promote this same behavior as that in which we should aspire to? When in reality, the world is often times going to reject us if we follow our Savior. The world rejected him and he didn’t come to do anything bad or harmful to anyone.

The world still rejects Jesus because sin is still at the root of every single one of our cultural backgrounds. For you and me as disciples, followers of Christ, we must not seek the world’s approval in our actions but rather first seek God’s wisdom in his word and strive to live as he lives. In that example, we will see love in its most pure form, as the unconditional love of God our Savior. We will see tolerance, not in the permission for people to live as they see fit, but in the living out of forgiveness amongst each other as our Father forgives us for the sake of His son. The world may reject or even hate us for it, but we can always be reminded that it hated Him first.

Prayer: Dear Lord, I thank you for the opportunity to live out my faith each day. You have called me to be your child, and in that calling have warned that the world may very well lash out with hate and rejection as it did towards your son. Help me Lord to know your ways and to be guided by your Holy Spirit. Lord, help me to imitate your love and forgiveness to those who come into my path. Lord, forgive me for seeking the approval of others before yours. Lead me to always put you first and find strength for every situation in you. I ask this all in Jesus name. Amen.

Further Thoughts:

1. Think of some specific examples of good, kind, loving acts by the world’s standards that may be counter to God’s word.

2. We are warned that the world may hate us for believing in Christ. That warning however doesn’t tell us to hate the world. How then are we to interact with the world? (Keep in mind John 3)

3. Read Matthew 5:13-16. What does being the ‘salt’ and ‘light’ look like?