I John 2:15 puts it this way: “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”
The “world” in that setting refers to the values and attitudes that shape culture. In our day, it applies equally to the values of Hollywood, California and of Washington DC.
Christ’s followers find their shape not in their surroundings but in the Savior . . . who remains, as always, subversive to the powers that be.
So what does that mean churches and pastors do with all the influence of “the world”? I have had correspondence in recent months with someone (not from Good Shepherd) who encourages me to “hate the world and all it stands for.”
The classic term for that approach to culture is separatist. The best way to avoid the influence of the world and its values is to separate from it; to establish Christ-centered enclaves unpolluted by modern culture. Many pastors, churches, and Christians adopt this mindset.
Yet other pastors, churches, and Christians see things differently. Instead of looking at the world as a place to avoid, they see multiple opportunities to engage. Believing that God leaves evidence of his grace in the lives and art of people who don’t even know him, they see the world as pregnant with opportunities to connect the dots and point people to Christ.
It’s why Acts 17 features Paul quoting prominent Greek poets as he witnesses for Christ in the midst of the Athenian elites.
It’s why The Shawshanck Redemption is a compelling entree into a conversation about soul redemption.
It’s why the music of U2, Switchfoot, and needtobreathe establishes a non-threatening common ground from which we can then share life in Christ.
As you can tell, we at Good Shepherd have opted to see the world not as a pollution to be avoided but as an opportunity to be mined.
I hope and trust it’s what Jesus had in mind when he prayed this way: “My prayer is not that you take them (his disciples) out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it.” (John 17:15-16)
In it but not of it.