- Thursday, November 13, 2008
EDITOR'S NOTE: The following is an excerpt from Worldliness: Resisting the Seduction of a Fallen World by C. J. Mahaney, editor (Crossway).
Is This Verse in Your Bible?
Hunched over his desk, penknife in hand, Thomas Jefferson sliced carefully at the pages of Holy Scripture, excising select passages and pasting them together to create a Bible more to his liking. The "Jefferson Bible." A book he could feel comfortable with.
What didn't make it into the Jefferson Bible was anything that conflicted with his personal worldview. Hell? It can't be. The supernatural? Not even worth considering.
God's wrath against sin? I don't think so. The very words of God regarded as leftover scraps.
Christians rightly shudder at such arrogant presumption. And no true Christian would be so bold as to attempt to create his or her own Bible, blatantly omitting whatever they don't prefer.
But if we are honest, we too may have to admit that we have a Bible of our own making—a metaphorical one, perhaps, but a cut-and-paste job just the same. For if we ignore any portion of God's Word—whether unintentionally, conveniently, or deliberately—we too are guilty of Jefferson's offense.
Sadly, I've been guilty on more than one occasion. I've opened my Bible and moved quickly to the encouraging and assuring passages, trying to avoid the difficult and challenging passages along the way.
Here's one verse I find easy to ignore. It's the simple, provocative words in 1 John 2:15:
"Do not love the world or anything in the world" (NIV).
There's nothing subtle about this sentence. It's abrupt and to the point—only ten words. It is categorical: "Do not love the world." It's comprehensive: "Do not love anything in the world." And it's intrusive, strategically aimed at whatever we desire most: "anything in the world."
It forbids worldliness in no uncertain terms.
First John 2:15 isn't a verse we tend to underline when we come across it in our daily Bible reading. We're not inclined to put "Do not love the world" on an index card and rehearse it during our daily commute. We don't hear many sermons on this verse and its prohibition of the sin of worldliness.
We read, we live, as if it doesn't belong in our Bible.
Clip. Clip. Clip.
Before we know it, we have a Bible like Jefferson's, and 1 John 2:15 is nowhere to be found.
Put Away the Scissors
Why do we try to create a Bible exclusive of this command?
Maybe, for all its simplicity, we're not exactly sure what it means. What is the author, John, getting at here? What does it mean for a Christian—what does it mean for me—not to love the world?
Does it mean I can't watch MTV or go to an R-rated movie? Do I have to give up my favorite TV shows? Is it okay to watch a movie as long as I fast-forward the sex scene? How much violence or language is too much?
Are certain styles of music more worldly than others? Is the rap or indie music that I'm loading onto my iPod okay?
How do I know if I'm spending too much time playing games or watching YouTube clips online?
Can a Christian try to make lots of money, own a second home, drive a nice car, and enjoy the luxuries of modern life?
Am I worldly if I read fashion magazines and wear trendy clothes? Do I have to be out of style in order to be godly? How short is too short? How low is too low?
How do I know if I'm guilty of the sin of worldliness?
You may have questions like these. But maybe, if you're honest, you don't really want the answers—at least, not from middle-aged pastors like my coauthors and me. You may assume that we're out-of-touch and that worldliness is the predictable concern of men over forty who can't relate to the younger generation.
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