(Lisa Robinson)

In my earlier Christian years, I was taught to hate the world and to avoid participation in it, especially as it related to culture.  That means it’s products – music, books, movies, etc.   I recall at times being torn because in the early eighties, music video was really taking off and I did like movies.  Well, some movies were ok as long as there was no sex, drugs, violence or bad language (God forbid there would be a curse word!).  The proof-text that was always used was 1 John 2:15 – “Do not love the world nor the things in the world.  If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”  That seemed pretty simple.  That meant Christian movies with distinct Christian themes, Christian music, and Christian literature was acceptable. This is sacred and worldly things are secular. And Christians did not participate in worldy things, lest they love the world.

Over the years, I have come to a different understanding of what it means to hate the world and to love the world.  As Christians, we must love the world since God does and seeks to reconcile it to himself.  Yes, for God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son (John 3:16).   So why does John say don’t love the world?  I’m no Johnnine scholar but W. Hall Harris III is.  He identifies here that world in John’s gospel (3:16) refers to humanity and particularly broken humanity, while 1 John references the philosophy and values that are separate from God.  Examining 1 John 2:15 in light of the next verse,  he says

We are dealing with people who operate purely on a human level and have no spiritual dimension to their existence. This is the person who loves the world, whose affections are all centered on the world, who has no love for God or spiritual things… It is not a reference to culture.

Nothing solidified this more than a recent class I took with Glenn Kreider on Theological Method with a particular focus on theology and culture and the fact that God not only operates through his word but through His world.  That means that Christians must interact in the world, which means interacting with the world, i.e. culture

Steve Turner agrees.  In his book Imagine: A Vision for Christians in the Arts, he identifies the problem of hiding from the world in the name of Christianity when we ought to be contributing to it through the various cultural mediums to a reflection of the glory of God.   I concur with Turner that creating Christian sub-cultures to avoid the world only end up 1) alienating the world and 2) prohibiting meaningful interaction from our unique point of view.  We do this to the detriment of loving the world, particularly when we treat it with hostility.  He says of using the 1 John 2:15 passage,

Confusing these two usages can lead to disaster.  Some strict fundamentalist sects show disdain toward creation and culture, and yet in doing so become proud, arrogant and uncaring.  They therefore become worldly in the very way the Bible condemns and yet are not worldly enough in the way the Bible commands.  We are told to be in the world but not of it.  People like this are often of the world but not in it. (pg 43)

He then goes on to say

Positively, the world is all that God made and Christ came to redeem.  This includes culture because humans have never lived in isolation from each other, and when they get together, they automatically create culture.  It would be impossible to think of loving humans and yet hating human culture, of loving individuals and yet hating their music, songs, stories, paintings, games, rituals, decorations, clothes, languages and hairstyles.  God made us cultural beings.

Therefore, Christians should be worldly in this positive sense.  They should be lovers of life because God is the giver of life.  No one is more worldly than God – He made the world, He upholds the world and sent His Son to die for the world.  Christianity doesn’t teach that the world is an illusion that will trap us or a hell that prevents us from attaining our true purpose. (pg 44)

Right about now, I can hear the protests regarding sin and depravity.  How can we appreciate products that come from sinful creatures? (of course not recognizing that describes us to only that our eyes have been opened to it and our need for a Savior).  Turner concurs that there is some art that reflects nothing of God or goodness and such should be avoided.  But overwhelmingly, the products of culture are but a reflection from those who bear the image of God though may not honor him as God.  Yet, the glimmers of God and his story is embedded in culture.  Consider this passage.

For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – His eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men and women are without excuse. (Romans 1:20)

The problem with the group that Paul is describing is not that they don’t reflect the nature of God but that they don’t recognize it or honor him as God.  The problem is not the products that are created by people.  But God sent His Son to die for them too.  And it seems if we are to be ambassadors of Christ, who loved the world, including the people in it so much he died for it, so we too should be compelled to stop hiding and start living – for the glory of God.



C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Find him on Patreon Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. Join his Patreon and support his ministry

    39 replies to "If God So Loved the World, Then Why Do We Hate It?"

    • Aaron Walton

      Oh, wow. Dave, I actually was unable to understand 1 Cor 5:9-10 till now. I was reading almost the opposite instead what it actually said. Seriously. Thanks for pointing to that verse, it was really confusing me for the last week. 🙂

    • Delwyn X. Campbell

      “Examining 1 John 2:15 in light of the next verse, he says,
      “We are dealing with people who operate purely on a human level and have no spiritual dimension to their existence. This is the person who loves the world, whose affections are all centered on the world, who has no love for God or spiritual things… It is not a reference to culture.” This quote seems to do the same thing that you are trying to deliver us from. If the passage has no referent to culture, but only to people whose values are hostile to God, where do they reflect those values if not in culture? Where else do Jay-Z and other R&B musicians show their disdain for the God who blessed his musical talent if not in the fleshly music that he creates to stir up “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride fo life”?
      In trying to avoid throwing out the baby with the bath water, you are asking me to drink dirty bath water, and pretend that it is champagne. Nice try, but try again.

    • Ed Kratz

      Delwyn, yes I do believe those values are reflected in culture as well as the evidence of God. What I’m proposing is not indulgence but reflection through participation that can hear the tension that exists between brokenness and redemption. This ought to give a fuller dimension of the human condition and the fact that this is the same humanity that God wants to redeem (though we know not all will accept). I do believe there is something in creation, including humanity that screams for redemption but turns to other avenues in the rejection of God or namely His Son (cf Romans 8:20-22). You will also note that I did say that some things are of no value.

    • Craig Bennett

      I love this Lisa…you are providing a framework in which we can go and participate in the world bringing about transformation where its needed.

      I also believe that God is able to speak / work through, in and over non Christians…after all he did speak to a prophet through a donkey…and therefore we need to be able to recognise how God is working within the world.

    • I’ve been a a believer for over 20 years. And yet, I struggle slightly with this whole thing. Not so my own belief and outworking but the condemnation I feel from other believers.

      This is definitely a post that I’ll come back too… it isn’t life changing (for me) in the sense of a lightning bolt but it has given me much fodder to chew upon slowly and I want to digest further… thank you!

    • george57

      yes (Lisa , i agree i play snooker with this pal of mine,at the start of meetings a few years ago, his tongue was very bad,,in lots of world stuff, now he picks on what he says in a careful manner, so we do and can rub christ on the unbelievers, a little bit at a time,,in town i was giving out little christian tracts, to whoever i felt god giving me this push towards them, the first woman,, was getting hot and angry, but the second woman wanted the tract,, and smile on her little face made my day,,my outer family is about 60,,and only myself is saved,, so please any tips on how to to them would be most wecome,lisa, i take it the little nuns locked up in the popes buildings,, are being and cut off from the true gospel,my heart is on the little catholics getting the truth, ,, but lisa, good post, we have to get our hands dirty in the world , lisa you were silient on the last post with spiritual gifts for todays church, +Why I Am/Not Charismatic, god bless.

    • Ed Kratz

      George, thanks for noticing my absence. To be honest, I have not had the time to keep up with the series as I am finishing up school work for the summer.

    • George Jenkins

      In Matthew 11:16 Jesus says He was called “a friend of sinners”. He does admit to the accusation, but I suspect there was a good bit of truth in the charge. Should we not be guilty of the same?

      Too often, I think, we turn from people because we are offended, perhaps rightly so, by some of the things they do. Isn’t it good that God does not treat us that way? Especially when the thing that offends Him is our failing to love those around us, Christians and non-Christians.

    • Nick

      For what was said about Jay-Z and others, ever considered what it could be if you took their musical talents and turned them around? Even if the lyrics and content are awful, there is talent there. Perhaps one should study what is being said as it’s often an expression of the soul behind it and see what’s going on in the world? Musical artists are very straight-forward about it.

      I also greatly appreciated this. I often have a problem that when I do something fun for me, I think “I could be doing something productive” and when I’m doing something productive I think “I could be doing something fun.” Perhaps the problem is seeing those two as exclusive.

    • Ed Kratz

      George J., I think you hit the nail on the head. I was actually pondering this morning that I wonder what Jesus talked about as he dined with the sinners that just wanted to be with him. In fact, I think there’s something to be examined that they wanted to be with him. Are we people that sinners want to be with? I find it interesting that we reject people that was once us. To an extent, I think it still is us only that we are redeemed. This is why I continue to sort out what is worth getting offended over what is not. Often I think we miss the greater good by focusing on the small trees of our insignificant offenses. I concur with my prof who said, I’ve come to be more tolerant of non-Christians who act like non-Christians than Christians who are suppose to act like Christians.

    • Delwyn X. Campbell

      While you’re doing that, just make sure that your good is not spoken evil of (Rom 14:16). I have had unsaved friends, who knew without a doubt that I was saved by my character. You can be godly, holy, and still accessible. I did not go clubbing with them, I did not get high with them, and I did not gamble with them. THEY knew that such conduct was not acceptable for a Christian without my saying one thing about it. We forget that, at least here in the U.S., most unsaved folk know, or at least think that they know, how Christians are supposed to live. That’s why they are so quick to tell you when you’re doing wrong.
      I son’t know if I can completely sign on with your prof, although I get what he is trying to say. I trust unsaved people to act like unsaved people, so I am never surprised by their conduct. I would liek to be able to trust saved people to act like saved people, in the same way.

    • Delwyn X. Campbell

      Regarding R&B singers and salvation, I have seen a few examples of secular singers getting saved and attempting ot use their talents for the Gospel. Sometimes they will try to do Gospel music (Coco of SWV, Marilyn McCoo, Stephanie Mills, Ma$e), and sometimes they try to do other artistic endeavors (Howard Hewett). I am not criticizing these efforts, as long as the Lord directs them. When He doesn’t, they usually fall short (MC Hammer), and the person drifts back to their former lifestyle.
      In summary, if a person gets saved, and, like Paul, goes from being an enemy of the Gospel to a frontline soldier, I praise the Lord. At the same time, I don’t assume that famous unsaved people will be as successful as witnesses for Christ as they were before, simply because there is a lot going against them, in terms of expectations, from both sides of the fence, and some of them can’t hack it. As an aside, I did not know that Keith Green was a moderately successful songwriter before he got…

    • Ed Kratz

      Delwyn, I’m not sure I’ve said anything that supports our not being holy as we should. You say “I would trust saved people to act like saved people”. The question though is what does that look like and particularly where we’ve created a sacred-secular divide? When we create standards by which Christian must measure up, which in context of this post is only participating in a sub-culture, then we judge according to those standards of whether they are acting saved or not. So let’s say a Christian writes mainstream music that is not overtly Christian but addresses real life scenarios and has themes of hope and redemption. Some would say he is not acting saved simply because he is not writing ‘Christian’ music. The same goes for actors, singers, regular Joes who like movies and music. Do you see what I’m getting at?

      When I think of the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15, they recognized that these once polytheistic Gentiles needed only two commands – don’t eat blood from meat and don’t engage in sexual immorality. The former I believe was to not be a stumbling block to their Jewish brethern. This is a far cry from the layers of criteria we’ve laid on Christians with expectations for them to “look saved”. We should expect Christians to love Christ and reflect him in any situation, even if not overtly stated (like preaching). That will mean being in the world he came to save. The more we focus on how saved somebody looks, the less I think we will appreciate the grace that saves us.

    • Delwyn X. Campbell

      When I think of R&B songwriters who write good music that might not make the Gospel charts, Stevie Wonder comes to mind. He attends West Angeles COGIC and is a frewuent guest as City of Refuge Church in Gardenia, CA. Actors who chose good solid roles that aren’t produced by a Christian film company include Denzel Washington, who attended West Angeles before he and his wife moved back east.
      It i spossible to do, and I’m sorry if I gave you the impression that I didn’t think it was. What I was pointing out is that, in my experience, even unsaved people have ideas about Chriswtian standards, and, sometimes, when we are trying to be “relevant” (think early “Christian Rap”), we merely look foolish to our unsaved friends. Just be you, and your unsaved friends will be able to relate to you, respect the anointing in your life, and maybe, if you look like “Jesus *really is* the center of my joy,” maybe they will be made thirsty as well, and “taste and see that the Lord is good.”

    • Dave Z

      I think we need to be careful that our “righteous behavior” is biblical and not cultural, especially Christian subcultural. As that applies to going clubbing, that can mean many things, but for me, I don’t have much of a problem with a believer going in a bar and having a drink. Since Jesus was called a drunkard, I figure he didn’t either. Maybe that’s why sinners were comfortable around him. And the religious people, not so much.

    • Delwyn X. Campbell

      @ Dave Z – You’re right about the cultural thing. Since I have begun attending a Lutheran Church, I have notices some interesting diferences between white Lutheran culture and black Pentecostal culture. Lutherans go to bars and pubs, while Pentecostals don’t.
      As a result, blacks respond more negatively when they see one of their “saved” relatives or acquaintances at a club than whites might under the same circumstances. I would be much more likely to hear, “you know you ain’t got no business in here” than you would, because of the cultural differences, if you are white.
      It shows up in other areas as well. When blacks go to church, they dress up, just like they do to go clubbing, while whites dress mnore casually for both. Unless you are going for “shock value,” doesn’t that kind of affect what you, as a Christian, should do in front of non-Christians?

    • Miss Bible

      With that scripture, about John 2: 15:

      “Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”

      I always thought it meant, let’s say if you have a job and are working over time, but you feel deep in your spirit that the Lord is asking you to spend more time with Him, but you decide to forego that, and not spend more time with God, that you were loving the world and not loving God. That’s what I think it means. (The above is just an example, there could be many other, like instead of a job, for others it may be some other thing. Just whatever it is you are putting it before God).

      Also, when I was reading your post, I was thinking of that scripture in John 12: 47

      If anyone hears My teachings and fails to observe them [does not keep them, but disregards them], it is not I who judges him. For I have not come to judge and to condemn and to pass sentence and to inflict penalty on the world, but to save the…

    • Ed Kratz

      “Doesn’t that kind of affect what you, as a Christian, should do in front of non-Christians?”

      The problem is that in some cases its not really about what we do in front of non-Christians but how we can be accepted within our particular Christian culture. I kind of crack up when I recall some of the comments I’ve heard regarding our behavior, like if we drink, smoke, get tattoos or go to ‘secular’ concerts we are not being a good witness for Christ, meaning we will turn people from Christ. So what happened to the grace of God who rescues lost people to reconcile them to himself? What about redemption? Isn’t that what we want people to see? Do we really think non-Christians are evaluating us on some of our self-imposed standards? Or do they want to see that Christ gives something their self-efforts could never achieve?

    • Ed Kratz

      Hi Miss Bible,

      The bigger question is to ask what John meant when he wrote it. That will entail examining the cultural context as well as how he uses the word ‘world’. He was addressing some Greek dualistic influences that were seeking to undermine the basis of Christianity by segregating the spiritual realm from the earthly realm. It was not about whether the Lord directs a certain way. I would recommend examining Dr. Harris’ article that I linked to.

    • Delwyn X. Campbell

      @ Lisa – yes, non-Christians do evaluate Christians. I read it all the time when I’m on certain websites. Non-Christians are quick to point out everything we do that goes against their understanding of proper Christian conduct. If you are caught holding a can of beer, say a curse word in anger or pain, or get caught coming out of someone else’s apartment early in the morning, you might get an earful of how you are a hypocrite.
      Now, they might be wrong, they might misunderstand the meaning of grace, but the fact remains, the unsaved judge us for what we do, even if they judge us unfairly. In response, I do what I can to avoid being a stumbling block, I don’t do things that are unbibilical, and I try to explain the difference between a false piety and true holiness. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t.

    • Ed Kratz


      I’d imagine that a lot of that is cultural just as you previously referenced. The unregenerate person who has grown up in church and given a criteria by which Christian standards are judged is more likely to use that criteria than one who has not been raised that way. Quite honestly, in some cultures they could care less whether you have a beer in your hand and would not evaluate your Christianity based on it.

    • Dave Z

      I agree with Lisa’s comment 22. I also think that one of the things that really matter to non-believers is whether they can tell that we really care about them. Love is attractive, and we have God’s love to offer. AND forgiveness for the stuff they’re probably feeling guilty about.

    • Dave Z

      On a related note regarding the way unbelievers think about us – The other day I stopped in a new store that opened near the church. It’s a “smoke-shop,” primarily selling cigars and discount cigarettes but other stuff too, including some bongs and hookahs and such. Anyway, I struck up a conversation with the owners and at one point they asked what I do for a living. Kind of reluctantly, I said “I’m a pastor at that church over there.” Their demeanor changed instantly. I HATE that! As soon as people find out what I do, they feel like they can’t be themselves around me. Yeah, that’s what I want – I want people to be fake around me! I guess they feel like I’m gonna judge them. OTOH, when someone finds out what I do, sometimes they come to me when spiritual issues arise in their lives. And that’s a good thing. But I do hate the sudden about-face that initially happens.

    • Ed Kratz


      You know I was reflecting on this since I left that last comment. The situation that Delwyn describes is what happens when we equate Christianity with behavior and emphasize that rather than faith by grace. We know we’re Christians because of a certain moralistic piety not because of our trust in Christ and reflection of him. When that gets pushed on to people, they can’t help but evaluate Christians by that standard. I also believe that unbelievers will use the transgression or supposed transgressions of Christians as an excuse to not confront their own sinfulness and need of a savior. It can become a convenient scapegoat. But there is something to seeing the love of Christ overcome all of that as the Holy Spirit moves.

    • Dave Z

      Lisa, I call it the checklist. We feel like we’re righteous when we can check off certain things on our list, instead of trusting Christ to make his righteousness become more and more of a reality in our lives. I think that’s what he promised to do – “being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

    • George Jenkins

      Dave Z,
      You wrote, “As soon as people find out what I do, they feel like they can’t be themselves around me.”

      I would hope the attitudes and actions of people would change when they find out I am a Christian. I want to stand for something that is different from things generally shown by non-Christians. I once was asked by a friend how the Bible study I was leading for a group of unwed mother sat our church was going . I replied, “If you don’t mind being sworn at in the middle of Bible study, it is going well.” Give the non-Christians time. Their true nature will out…..even if for no other reason than to see if you will still care about them after you see some of their less positive characteristics. I find my relationships with non-Christians go through several stages, most eventually go well, some do not. Just a thought….I’ll bet some Christians act differently when they find you’re a pastor.

    • Dave Z

      George, that last sentence really did make me LOL! Love it! And yes, it’s true.
      I see your points and agree. I just dislike the superficial change. It’s a cheap caricature of true repentance.

    • Delwyn X. Campbell

      I like what you said earlier, Lisa. Particularly, those of us who come from a pentecostal holiness background are accustomed to having “the list” as a reference tool. In reality, that is really childish, but it feels safe, so we try to hold onto that, rather than growing up into the fullness of Christ. I know that there are church folk “whose god is their belly…” but the existence of people who claim to know Christ while living as if He were not there in no way negates the reality of the new birth and the reality that can be experienced as we yield to the Spirit.

    • […] themes of redemption and hope, even though truth within them is suppressed, as I wrote about here as well.   It is no different with the Harry Potter series or with any other cultural products that contain […]

    • Steve Yisrael

      Interesting post

      But answer this question – Didn’t the first century christians create subcultures? Did they participate in the ways of Rome? Many will say that you cannot compare that time to contemporary ones, but interestingly enough those that remark that will also say biblical teachings from scripture are not literally applicable to today either. The gospel does not conform to the time. The gospel is the same. So how did the first century christians conduct themselves? It was most definently not to intermingle into what was considered the culture of the day of Rome, no more different then the culture today of America. They were a “peculiar” people. They did not conform. This is historically recorded by the earliest church fathers. Whether one wants to accept that fact or not. We are in the world and not of it. We are to evangelize Christ and not let the world evangelize us. Modern day evangelistic christianity has obviously lost sight of 1st century believers…

    • Steve Yisrael

      There is a requirement in what one here terms “moralistic piety”. Scripture does ask that of those who are truly “born-again” to LIVE in a manner reflective of that rebirth. It is by grace yes, it is also plainly clear there are affirmations and requests for believers to SHOW this new birth. John in his epistles clearly differentiates between one who is truly in Christ and is reflective of their “piety” and those who are not and are not reborn. Alot of “christians” tend to put a negative connotation towards terms as “born again” “self righteousness”. But really, are those things to be given a negative connotation, or are they to grasped for as a believer – which the apostles talk adamantly about. Paul even questioning “believers” who said they were in the faith, to really examine if they were in the faith because of their lifestyles. Now, why would Paul question believers on their lifestyles if we are not to have “moral piety”. Scripture is literal and…

    • Franko

      i am a straight man that just wanted to meet the right woman for me, and have a family like i would have wanted. instead i met the wrong woman who i married, and she cheated on me. now going out is very hard for me, since i seem to meet the VERY LOW LIFE LOSER WOMEN that are so DAMN NASTY to talk too. why would GOD make certain men and women VERY FORTUNATE enough to have met one another, and not me? i would just want to have a normal life like so many other men and women have. and i don’t think that it is too much to ask for, especially what is normal today, is it?

    • tony

      we are to be salt of the world, if we act like the rest of the world, what saltiness do we have. If we act like the world how can they see Jesus through us? Sometimes i think we dont want to give up some of the things of the world that we desire. Im not saying act holier than thou, but we should most definitly show Jesus in how we live. I disagree about what hating the world with you 100%, what that means is the ways of the world(culture). This world belongs to satan and its ways follow him, where in our culture or around the world do you see Jesus anymore. The ways of the world are abortion, sex, drugs, pleasure with anything, homosexuality, basically liberalism. Today’s liberalism is satan’s ways to the tee, everything that God says is wrong liberalism calls right. I think we are to hate the ways of the world (liberalism) but love the people, share the love of Christ with them in our behavior, which is how we represent Jesus and by our mouths. We have to live among the world but should’nt be of it.

    • So Very Serious

      Well for many of us that are very much alone and have no one to share our life with really hurts so very much, and to look at so many others that were Very Extremely Blessed to find love and happiness really speaks for itself. Doesn’t It?

    • Jon-Paul

      (John 3:16) For God so loved (G25) the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that everyone believing into Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

      By the general use of the common word “love” in modern Bibles, many people are misled to believe that God had a pleasant, kind and endearing affection for “the world”, but we are certain that cannot be true because we are also told elsewhere in Scripture:

      (1 John 2:15) Do not love (G25) the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him

      So God can love the world, but you can’t?



    • Albert

      Lisa, both you and all the Bible scholars you’ve quoted are WRONG! God/Jesus only loves the children of Israel- His chosen people. The rest are like spit to Him. (2 Esdras 6:56. In John 3:16, “whosoever”, and “world” refers only to God’s chosen people- the Jews/Israelites. Gentile meant, by definition: Jews living in Gentile lands under Gentile customs, laws, and traditions. Therefore, which Rev. 21:12 gate will you, a Chinese, Japanese, or anyone else NOT of the blood-line (12 tribes of Israel), enter into???

    • SadToSayButVeryTrue

      Well the way that i look at it, God is really Satan.

    • SadToSayButVeryTrue

      Well with so much misery, sickness, and murders today, it is very hard Not to hate God when he should stop all this mess that is going on in this world today since so many of us innocent people are really Suffering over this.

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