A39 THE WORLD
St. John 15.vv.18-27
~ Jesus said, "If the world hates you, be aware that it hated me before it hated you. If you belonged to the world, the world would love you as its own. Because you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world - therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, 'Servants are not greater than their master'. If they persecuted me, they will persecute you; if they kept my word, they will keep yours also. But they will do all these things to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin. Whoever hates me hates my Father also. If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not have sin. But now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. It was to fulfil the word that is written in their law, 'They hated me without a cause'. When the advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father, he will testify on my behalf. You also are to testify because you have been with me from the beginning." ~
"If the world hates you, remember that it hated me before you".
Must there be antipathy between Christ and the world? Is not God's world good?
Perhaps, like all God's gifts, the world is subject to man's abuse and corruption though basically good in its nature. If, as we believe, Christ's words are true, it follows that if we are truly Christians in this "naughty" world, there is an inevitability about our being in conflict with the world. Many times Jesus predicted that his followers would suffer persecution. The reason for this was that his followers were not "of the world". This does not mean that they were to hate or despise the world, for God made it and it is good; but, as so often in the writing of the Fourth Gospel, the word "world" refers to the unregenerate sinful generality of mankind.
In the moral and spiritual teaching of Jesus, especially in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus reverses many of the accepted standards of the world. His ethical and spiritual teaching turns upside down the accepted values and norms of his day and of every age.
The Church, therefore, if it is loyal to Christ, challenges the assumption, attitudes and motives of worldly people. The Church, if true to itself, is a disturbing influence in the world.
Two examples of this in the Christian tradition, in a supposedly Christian culture, are the Earl of Shaftesbury who called into question the issue of poverty and became a thorn in the flesh of the established Church, and Wilberforce in his opposition to slavery. Elizabeth Fry, Florence Nightingale and many other nineteenth century reformers may be cited. Those who publicly refute vice and campaign against impurity in our own day are often subject to ridicule and hostility. Christians are obviously not the easiest people to get on with among those who belong to the unregenerate world. People are often uncomfortable in the presence of committed Christian people until they have decided whether to love or hate them.
Among the paradoxical and bewildering statements which abound in the Bible may be cited the apparently contradictory statements that, (a) God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, to the end that all that believe in him should not perish but have everlasting life", and, (b) "Fight against sin, the world and the devil". The short and simple answer is that, as so often in the New Testament (especially in the Johannine writings), the word "world" connotes the unredeemed world, the world that leaves God out of account, the world that spurns God's love, that resists the prompting of the Holy Spirit.
Christian people promise either personally or by proxy at their Baptism and Confirmation to fight against the (unregenerate) world, the flesh and the devil. Some of the antipathy directed against true Christians may result from envy deep-seated, an envy of their goodness, their sense of identity, purpose, joy, peace and love.
Envy, however, may be a powerful stimulus to conversion, for one of the most potent influences in Christian conversion is the "envy" (not a "deadly sin") non-Christians may feel when they contemplate the peace and joy of true Christian living.
"Ecclesia" our word for "Church" means a "calling out"; Christians are "called out" from the world; but their love for the world must ever remain as that of God who "so loved the world that he did not (as someone has wryly put it) send a committee!".