Survivors Must Be “No Part of the World”
1, 2. (a) What did Jesus say about the relationship of his disciples to the world? (b) What does that not mean, and why?
WE HUMANS are all “in the world,” that is, living among the world of mankind. Yet, Jesus Christ said that his followers must be “no part of the world.” (John 17:11, 14) What did he mean? If we hope to be among those surviving to life in God’s new order, we need to understand this.
2 First consider what being “no part of the world” does not mean. It does not mean that we isolate ourselves from people. It does not mean living like hermits in a cave or withdrawing into a monastery or other remote place. To the contrary, the night before his death Jesus prayed to his Father on behalf of his disciples, saying: “I request you, not to take them out of the world, but to watch over them because of the wicked one. They are no part of the world, just as I am no part of the world.”—John 17:15, 16.
3, 4. (a) In what activities is it necessary for Christians to have contact with people of the world? (b) But what must they avoid?
3 Rather than hide themselves from people, Jesus’ disciples were ‘sent forth into the world,’ to make known the truth. (John 17:18) They were to serve as “the light of the world,” letting the light of truth shine before men so that these might see how God’s truth affects people’s lives for good.—Matthew 5:14-16.
4 Christians, of necessity, have contact with many people as they work to support themselves and their families and as they declare the good news of God’s kingdom to mankind. So, as the apostle Paul shows, they are not expected to “get out of the world” in a physical way. They cannot entirely “quit mixing in company” with people of the world. But they can and must keep the wrong ways that the majority of mankind practice from infecting them and the Christian congregation.—1 Corinthians 5:9-11.
5. How is the needed separateness from the world illustrated in the ease of Noah and his family?
5 So, they must be like Noah and his family. In Noah’s day “all men had lived corrupt lives on earth.” (Genesis 6:12, NE) But Noah and his family were different. By refusing to join the rest of mankind in their ungodly course and by preaching righteousness, Noah “condemned the world,” showed it to be inexcusably out of harmony with God’s will. (Hebrews 11:7; 2 Peter 2:5) That is why, when the global flood brought an end to ungodly mankind, he and his family survived. They were “in the world” but at the same time were “no part of the world.”—Genesis 6:9-13; 7:1; Matthew 24:38, 39.
WHAT IS PROPER LOVE FOR PEOPLE OF THE WORLD?
6. Is it proper to show any love toward people of the world?
6 Would your becoming “no part of the world” mean that you become a ‘hater of mankind’? Not at all. Instead, you should imitate Jehovah God. As recorded at John 3:16, Jesus Christ tells us: “God loved the world [of mankind] so much that he gave his only-begotten Son, in order that everyone exercising faith in him might not be destroyed but have everlasting life.” God’s kindness and compassion toward people of all sorts sets the example for us to follow.—Matthew 5:44-48.
7, 8. (a) What did the apostle John say about loving the world? (b) What does that mean, and how do John’s further comments show this?
7 But does not the apostle John tell us, “Do not be loving either the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him”? If God loved the world, why did the apostle say this?—1 John 2:15.
8 The Bible shows that God loved the world of mankind simply as humans, people in an imperfect, dying state who were in desperate need of help, whether they appreciated it or not. But he did not love the ungodly qualities they had and that manifested themselves in wrong desires. And he did not love the ungodly deeds they committed. The apostle John warned against loving the wrong desires and deeds of the world of mankind, stating: “Because everything in the world—the desire of the flesh and the desire of the eyes and the showy display of one’s means of life—does not originate with the Father, but originates with the world. Furthermore, the world is passing away and so is its desire, but he that does the will of God remains forever.”—1 John 2:15-17.
9, 10. (a) How can it be said that these desires ‘originate with the world’? (b) What effect have these desires had on mankind?
9 Yes, those desires of the flesh and of the eyes and the desire for personal exaltation did ‘originate with the world’—they were what developed in mankind’s first parents and led them into a course of rebellion. (Genesis 3:1-6, 17) Wrong desire caused them to seek independence from God so that they could follow selfish interests out of harmony with his will. Following these selfish desires led to breaking God’s laws.
10 Consider what you see around you in our time. Do not most of the people today build their lives around the desires of the flesh and of the eyes and the “showy display of one’s means of life”? Is it not these things that shape the hopes and interests of the great mass of mankind, governing the way they act and their dealings with one another? Yes, and this has led to their breaking of God’s laws. Because of this the history of mankind is one long record of disunity and war, of immorality and crime, of commercial greed and oppression, of proud ambition and striving for fame and power.
11. So, then, why is God’s love for the world not inconsistent with what the apostle John condemns?
11 We can see, then, the difference between loving the world as God did and loving its wrong desires and practices, which the apostle condemns. God’s love for the world of mankind was expressed for the very purpose of opening the way for them to become free from those sinful desires and their bad results, including death itself. He expressed that love at great cost to himself, giving his own Son as a sacrifice to ransom mankind. But for anyone who rejects that sacrifice and willfully continues in disobedience, the Bible says that “the wrath of God remains upon him.”—John 3:16, 36; Romans 5:6-8.
12. How can we analyze whether the love we may have for persons of the world is pleasing to God or not?
12 What, then, about us? Do we love persons of the world because of sincere concern for them as fellow humans, people who need help in order to find the way to life in God’s favor? Or do we love the very things that hold them back from becoming God’s servants—the independent way in which they go about breaking God’s laws to satisfy their selfish fleshly interests and their concern for their own importance and glory rather than that of God? If we are attracted to people and love to be with them for these bad qualities, then we are loving the world in the way the apostle warned against.
13. How could love for the world hold a person back from serving God?
13 Because many persons in Jesus’ day loved the world’s bad ways, they avoided taking a bold stand as Jesus’ disciples. They did not want to lose their popularity and position among the people in their social and religious circles. They loved the praise of men rather than the approval of God. (John 12:42, 43) Some performed works of charity and did other religious acts—but primarily because they wanted to be looked up to by men, yes, by the world of mankind. (Matthew 6:1-6; 23:5-7; Mark 12:38-40) Do you not see people, even large numbers of those in Christendom, showing this same love of the world’s wrong course today? Yet the Bible shows this is not the course leading to survival.
KEEPING FREE FROM CONTROL BY “THE RULER OF THIS WORLD”
14. Who subjected Jesus to temptation when he was on earth, and with what outcome?
14 God’s own Son was subjected to temptation along these same lines. The effort was made to stir up in him selfish desire of the flesh and the eyes and to get him to make a showy display to impress people—to become like the world. He was even offered rulership over all the kingdoms of the world with their glory. He flatly rejected that appeal. He knew how to show love for the world in harmony with his Father’s will. But from whom did that appeal to selfishness come? From the one who first challenged Jehovah God’s sovereignty, the same one who induced our first parents to prove false to their Creator, namely, Satan the Devil. (Luke 4:5-8) This is a vital point for us to recognize. Why?
15. Show from your Bible who “the ruler of this world” is.
15 Because it shows that the world of mankind in general, including its worldly kingdoms and other rulerships, has God’s adversary as its invisible ruler. Jesus himself spoke of that chief opposer of God as “the ruler of this world.” (John 12:31; 14:30; 2 Corinthians 4:4) The apostle Paul also referred to “wicked spirit forces” or demons under Satan’s control as constituting invisible ‘governments, authorities and world rulers of this darkness,’ against whom Christians need defense through spiritual armor.—Ephesians 6:10-13.
16. How much of the world has been misled by Satan and is in his power?
16 Only a minority has ever stayed free from the control of this invisible ruler and his forces. But the “world,” that is, the mass of mankind in general, “is lying in the power of the wicked one.” By demonistic influence he ‘misleads the entire inhabited earth,’ including the earthly rulers, steering them onto a collision course against God and his kingdom by Christ Jesus.—1 John 5:19; Revelation 12:9; 16:13, 14; 19:11-18.
17. (a) What does the “spirit” manifested by the world testify as to the one who is leading mankind? (b) Would it be pleasing to the Creator if we manifested such a spirit?
17 Does this sound hard to believe? Yet, do not most people of this world clearly manifest the “spirit”—the dominant attitude and impelling force—and the works that characterize God’s adversary? World wide we see the lying, deception, hatred, violence and murder that the Bible says identifies persons as ‘originating with the Devil,’ that is, as having him for their spiritual “father.” (Ephesians 2:2, 3; John 8:44; 1 John 3:8-12) Surely this spirit of the world does not come from a loving Creator.
18. How does our attitude concerning rulership show whether we are free from the control of the “ruler of this world”?
18 Do we not also see the vast majority of the people trusting in human schemes and projects to bring them peace and security on earth? How many persons do you know who really look to God and to his Son’s kingdom to solve earth’s problems, rather than to human political systems? Yet Jesus said: “My kingdom is no part of this world.” His kingdom does not have its “source” in this world, because men do not give it its authority nor set it up nor keep it in power. It is God’s own provision. (John 18:36; Isaiah 9:6, 7) So, to be among those hoping to survive when that kingdom comes against all its opponents, we need to recognize the hard fact of Satan’s dominance of this world and its systems. We need to maintain freedom therefrom by our firm stand for Jehovah’s righteous government by Christ Jesus.—Matthew 6:10, 24, 31-33.
19. As testified to by history, in what ways did the early Christians show that they were “no part of the world”?
19 History shows how early Christians, though respectful, law-abiding citizens, were determined to be “no part of the world,” even though this brought upon them severe persecution. We read statements such as these:
“Early Christianity was little understood and was regarded with little favor by those who ruled the pagan world. . . . Christians refused to share certain duties of Roman citizens. . . . They would not hold political office.”—On the Road to Civilization, A World History, by Heckel and Sigman, pp. 237, 238.
“They refused to take any active part in the civil administration or the military defence of the empire. . . . it was impossible that the Christians, without renouncing a more sacred duty, could assume the character of soldiers, of magistrates, or of princes.”—History of Christianity, Edward Gibbon, pp. 162, 163.
“Origen [who lived in the second and third centuries of the Common Era] . . . remarks that ‘the Christian Church cannot engage in war against any nation. They have learned from their Leader that they are children of peace.’ In that period many Christians were martyred for refusing military service. On March 12, 295, Maximilian, the son of a famous Roman veteran, was called upon to serve in the Roman army and he refused, saying simply: ‘I am a Christian.’”—H. Ingli James, quoted in Treasury of the Christian World, edited by A. Gordon Nasby, p. 369.
20. To keep free from control by the “ruler of this world,” from what divisive activities of the world do Jehovah’s servants abstain?
20 By maintaining this freedom from involvement in the world’s affairs, Jehovah’s servants do not contribute to its strife, its divisive nationalism or racialism, its social conflicts. Their God-directed attitude contributes toward peace and security among men of all sorts. (Acts 10:34, 35) Survivors of the coming “great tribulation” will, in fact, come “out of all nations and tribes and peoples and tongues.”—Revelation 7:9, 14.
FRIENDS OF THE WORLD OR FRIENDS OF GOD?
21. Why cannot a person who follows the Bible also expect to be loved by the world?
21 Jesus told his disciples: “If you were part of the world, the world would be fond of what is its own. Now because you are no part of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, on this account the world hates you. . . . If they have persecuted me, they will persecute you also.” (John 15:19, 20) The simple truth is that the only way to have the world’s friendship is to become like it, share its desires, ambitions, prejudices, admire its thinking and philosophies, take up its practices and ways. But supporters of this world resent having their errors exposed or being warned of the dangers to which their course is leading. That is why, if one follows the Bible, upholds its teachings in conduct and manner of life and speaks in favor of it, he simply cannot escape the world’s hatred.—John 17:14; 2 Timothy 3:12.
22. What choice as to friendship confronts each one of us?
22 So, the Bible shows we have a clear choice. At James 4:4 we read: “Do you not know that the friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever, therefore, wants to be a friend of the world is constituting himself an enemy of God.” God also has his standards for friendship and they are not in harmony with those of the world of sinful mankind.—Psalm 15:1-5 [14:1-5, Dy].
23. (a) What would show that a person is a friend of the world? (b) How can we show that we are friends of God?
23 Our having God’s friendship, which leads to survival into his new order, depends upon much more than our belonging or not belonging to certain of this world’s organizations. If we manifest the world’s spirit, share its worldly viewpoint of life, then we identify ourselves as friends of the world, not of God. The world’s spirit produces the “works of the flesh,” things such as “fornication, uncleanness, loose conduct, idolatry, practice of spiritism, enmities, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, contentions, divisions, sects, envies, drunken bouts, revelries, and things like these.” The Bible clearly says that “those who practice such things will not inherit God’s kingdom.” Exactly to the contrary, if we are God’s friends we will have his spirit with its fruits of “love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faith, mildness, self-control.”—Galatians 5:19-23.
24. (a) Why is it unwise to become imitators of persons on whom the world bestows honor? (b) How can our attitude toward material possessions show whose friendship we are really seeking?
24 Whose spirit, then, do we reflect? That will help us to determine whose friends we really are. Living as we do in this present evil world, subjected to its influences, we should not be surprised if we find the need to make changes in our lives in order to please God. Worldly people, for example, heap honor and glory on persons whose ambitious drive leads them to great wealth, power or fame. People pattern themselves after such worldly heroes and idols, imitating them in speech, conduct, appearance and dress. Do you want to be identified as an admirer of such people? Their achievements are just the opposite of what God’s Word urges us to make our goal in life. The Bible directs us to spiritual wealth and strength and the honor of serving as God’s representatives and spokesmen on earth. (1 Timothy 6:17-19; 2 Timothy 1:7, 8; Jeremiah 9:23, 24) The world’s commercial propaganda turns people to materialism. They come to believe that their happiness is all wrapped up in material possessions and they give these far greater importance than God’s Word or things of spiritual value. Such things will gain for you the world’s friendship but will cut you off from God’s friendship. Which means more to you? Which will lead to greater and more enduring happiness?
25. (a) What should we expect from the world when we leave behind its ways? (b) What will enable us really to ‘make our minds over’ to view things as God does?
25 It is easy to give in to the world’s pattern. And, because of its bad spirit, supporters of this world will resent it if you take a separate course. (1 Peter 4:3, 4) Pressures will be brought on you to conform, to let worldly human society mold you into its likeness. The world’s wisdom—its philosophies as to what brings success in life—will be used to try to control your thinking. So, it takes real effort and faith to ‘make your mind over’ to see things from God’s viewpoint and see why ‘the wisdom of this world is foolishness in his sight.’ (1 Corinthians 1:18-20; 2:14-16; 3:18-20) By diligent study of God’s Word we can see through the world’s false wisdom, see the bad results that it is already bringing, and the disastrous end to which it must lead. Then we can also come to appreciate fully the wisdom of God’s way and the sure blessings that it guarantees.
USELESS TO GIVE LIFE AND ENERGIES TO A PASSING WORLD
26. Would it be wise to get involved in the work of humanitarian organizations of the world with a view to improving conditions?
26 Some may object: ‘But do not many of the organizations of the world do good, working for the protection, health, education and freedom of the people?’ True, certain organizations do give some temporary relief from a few of the people’s troubles. Yet they are all part of the world alienated from God, and they turn the people’s attention toward perpetuating this present system of things. None of them are advocates of God’s government for earth, his kingdom by his Son. After all, even some criminals who engage in vicious and harmful activities may raise families, provide for them and even do charitable works for the community. But would these things justify giving our support to criminal organizations in any way?—Compare 2 Corinthians 6:14-16.
27. What is the only way that we can help people in this world to be among the survivors into God’s new order?
27 Can we really show true love for mankind by associating ourselves with any of the world’s schemes, devoting time and energy to make these succeed? If you wanted to help persons who were ill and diseased, would you do so by associating with them in such a way that you contracted their same ailments and diseases? Or would you not be of far greater aid to them if you stayed healthy yourself and tried to aid them to find the way to health? The present human society is spiritually sick and diseased. None of us can save it, for God’s Word shows its sickness is leading to its death. (Compare Isaiah 1:4-9.) But we can help individuals in the world to find the way to spiritual health and to survival into a righteous new order—provided we ourselves maintain separateness from the world. (2 Corinthians 6:17) Wisely, then, shun involvement in the world’s schemes, and exert yourself to avoid becoming infected by the spirit of the world and imitating its unrighteous ways. Never forget, the “world is passing away and so is its desire, but he that does the will of God remains forever.”—1 John 2:17.