Thursday, September 23, 2004

The world: Hate it or love it?

Commentary on the Sabbath School Lesson

Words and their various meanings are very interesting to me. I have always been intrigued by them and take pleasure in tracing their usage in diverse languages. Its amazing how words mean something to one group of people and something else entirely to other group. We receive a very different perspective on a word when we discover its original meaning, as well as the ways in which that meaning has changed. The same goes for translating words or phrases from one language to another. Mono-linguistic persons often express surprise when a word in English sounds like a foreign word, but has a completely different meaning. Words and phrases in one language may not translate into another language readily, so a new word must be coined. Its so easy to think we understand a word in our own language, after all, we use it frequently. And yet, if we become just a little curious, work backward, and trace the word to its original language, we may discover a deeper meaning which heretofore eluded us. That’s why I am so thankful for dictionaries, and am particularly thankful to God for the Hebrew and Greek dictionaries. Without them, I would be lost. These dictionaries shed light on a totally different picture of God's requirements for us. Take the word obedience, for example. In the English language we translate it, “do as you are told.” In the Hebrew the word we translated to obedience means, “Listening closely and attentively-- to hear, with a willingness to do.” In other words, God does not just want us to take action, He wants us to know Him, know His voice, and in the process, understand what He wants us to accomplish in His power.

This week’s lesson presents a similar situation with the word: World. At first glance, it seems that the Bible contradicts itself. In 1 John and in Romans, it seems that we are being told to hate the world (1 John 2:15; Rom.12:2). Yet later on we're told that God loved the world (John 3:16; 2 Cor. 5:18,19) and that's why He sent His son . What an apparent contradiction! In Matthew 28, we are told that God even commissions us to go out to the world. What are we to believe? Some say that John 17:14 - 18 explains the paradox, but to someone not versed in scripture, this text just seems to provide more confusion. Let's take a look at John 17:14-18:

John 17:14 I have given them Thy Word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.
John 17:15 I pray not that Thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that
Thou shouldest keep them from the evil.
John 17:16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.
John 17:17 Sanctify them through Thy truth: Thy Word is truth.
John 17:18 As Thou hast sent Me into the world, even so have I also sent them
into the world.

This scripture gives the impression that we are to be in the World but not of the World. To someone new to the Christian life, comes the question, "how can I be in something, but not be part of it? "After all, if you're in something, doesn't it stick on you? So, how could I be in-- it but not?" "I'm either in something, or I'm not -- right?" The New Testament was written in Greek, so let's look up the word -- "world," in a concordance. Upon examination, the word -- "Kosmos," from which we get the word "cosmos," has several meanings, and is revealed as the word we're looking for. To determine which meaning is correct for the passage in question, we must 1st determine the context of that passage.

To the Hebrew mind, the word Kosmos can mean several things, a few of which are: the inhabitants of the earth, men, the human family; the ungodly multitude; the whole mass of men alienated from God, and therefore hostile to the cause of Christ. It could also mean: worldly affairs, the aggregate of things earthly; the whole circle of earthly goods, endowments, riches, advantages, pleasures, and the like, which although hollow, frail and fleeting, stir desire, seduce from God and are obstacles to the cause of Christ; any aggregate or general collection
of particulars of any sort. In summary, the word-- "world," can refer to Sin or the Sinner. Perhaps Sister White sheds a little more light:

The Followers of Christ are to be separate form the world in principles and interests, but they are not to isolate themselves from the World (E. G. White Notes, page 92).

Wow, at least for those who've been baffled, we got that cleared up. The "world," used in this context of scripture is referring to the customs, traditions and expectations of sinful humanity. The apostles, through the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit, are telling us that we are not to be like the sinful inhabitants of the world, worrying, fretting, and concerned with the cares of this life, for they root out the Word (Matt. 6:25-33; Matt. 13:3, 22, 23). If these counsels seem an impossible feat, remember that Christ only asked us to listen closely, with a willingness to hear, and a willingness to do. When we are in Christ, nothing shall be impossible, for all things are possible to him who believes, and abides (Mark 10:27; John 1:3-5; Phil. 4:13).

It is said that God hates the Sin, but loves the Sinner. When we are in Christ we too will bear the fruit of the Holy Spirit, and will- agape - love the Sinner unconditionally and hate the Sin. You cannot admire both, the Sinner and the Sin, and possess the love of God. When there is no love or burden for the sinner's ultimate eternal destination, there is unquestionably, love for Sin. But,
when God places in our hearts, His love, and passionate burden for the salvation of the Sinner --- we will hate Sin; and -- we will love our brother unto the death. For Christ's sake, let's be willing to allow God to do this work in us.

Raul Diaz & Maria Greaves-Barnes

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