When it comes to Scripture’s use of world, it’s easy to misinterpret the term in one verse or another. The Christian who doesn’t carefully consider context can find themselves living with too much legalism or too much liberty. In his book The Disciple-Making Parent, Chap Bettis reminds us that God loves every person in the world, and as followers of Jesus He calls us to do likewise. Further, God made the world that we live in and He declared it good. He made the natural wonders of the Great Barrier Reef and the Grand Canyon, and he gifted us with every good thing the world contains for our enjoyment. But at the same time, Christians are clearly called to leave the world behind and wholeheartedly follow Jesus.
Love, Enjoy, Resist
The disciple-making parent teaches their children to love the world and enjoy the world, while simultaneously resisting the world. But what does that look like?
Love the World
When it comes to the New Testament authors’ positive use of world as the object of our loving, it should be clear that these passages aren’t referring to the broken, sinful, spiritually corrupted system that is opposed to God. Rather, this should bring to our minds those people for whom Jesus died. The New Testament presents a coherent message that as Christians we are to love our neighbour (read: everyone) and Jesus told his followers that second only to loving God, we should love our neighbour as we love ourselves (Matthew 22:39).
Enjoy the World
Because God made all things good, a Christian can – and should – find pleasure in music, books, sports, movies, and food to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31). Jesus’ call to discipleship doesn’t mean we have to leave behind us the enjoyment of a sport or the exhilaration of a symphony; as disciple-making parents, we should point our children to the Creator through the enjoyment of his good gifts.
Resist the World
At the same time, Scripture teaches us that as Christians, we are not to be conformed to the pattern of the world (Romans 12) and John tells us “do not love the world” (1 John 2:15). In his book The Pursuit of God, A. W. Tozer writes:
A whole new generation of Christians has come up believing it is possible to accept Christ without forsaking the world.
This is the negative use of world that refers to those things which would seek to overthrow God as the primary object of our affections. Again, this doesn’t mean that being a Christian means we’re anti-fun or anti-possessions. My household loves all things Marvel; our bookshelves contain the latest comics, our kids wear Avengers pyjamas or sleep under Iron-Man sheets, and we never leave the cinema before watching the very last post-credit scene. However, if we’re talking about Marvel more than we’re talking about Jesus then we’ve got an idol, and we have a problem. Disciple-making parents need to talk about Jesus and his kingdom more than we talk about bands, movies, clothes, food, or things.
Why It Matters
When our children are young, they are forming their values, beliefs, and the way they look at the world. Christians parents are charged with helping these young disciples to navigate the waters of loving the world and enjoying the world, while resisting the world all at the same time. God wants us to enjoy his good gifts while remembering that our greatest pleasure is found in God Himself. One way to achieve this is by allowing Christ’s kingdom to graciously invade our conversations; that in our joys, encouragements, corrections, and conversations our children would see Christ as our treasure and goal. As disciple-making parents, we want to instill in our children an ability to delight in knowing Jesus Christ in, through, and before all other things.