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?
WHAT did Jesus mean in saying that his followers are “in the world,” and yet that they must be “no part of the world”? (John 17:11, 14) To be among those surviving to live 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 like hermits in a cave or that we withdraw into a monastery or other remote place. On 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 be hidden from people, Jesus’ disciples were ‘sent forth into the world’ to make known the truth. (John 17:18) In doing so, they served as “the light of the world,” letting the light of truth shine so that men might see how God’s truth affects people’s lives for the good.—Matthew 5:14-16.
4 Christians have contact with many people as they work to support themselves and their families and as they bring 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 away from the wrong practices of the majority of mankind.—1 Corinthians 5:9-11.
5. How is the needed separateness from the world illustrated in the case of Noah and his family?
5 The situation is similar to that of Noah’s day when Jehovah took note that “all men had lived corrupt lives on earth.” (Genesis 6:12, The New English Bible) But Noah and his family lived differently. By refusing to join in with the corruption around them and by preaching righteousness, Noah “condemned the world.” He 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” yet 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 becoming “no part of the world” also mean becoming a hater of mankind? To do so would put one at odds with Jehovah God, who, his Son Jesus said, “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.” So God’s kindness and compassion toward people of all sorts sets the example for us to follow.—John 3:16; Matthew 5:44-48.
7, 8. (a) What does the Bible say about loving the world? (b) What is the world from which we must be separate? (c) Why must we shun the world and its desires?
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 himself loved the world, why did the apostle say this?—1 John 2:15.
8 The Bible shows that God loves the world of mankind simply as humans who are in an imperfect, dying state and in desperate need of help. On the other hand, Satan has organized most of humankind in opposition to God. It is that “world”—human society alienated from God and under Satan’s control—from which true Christians must be separate. (James 1:27) God’s Word warns against loving the wrong desires and deeds of that world: “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 for personal exaltation do ‘originate with the world.’ They were what developed in mankind’s first parents and led them to seek independence from God so that they could follow selfish interests. Following these selfish worldly desires led to breaking God’s laws.—Genesis 3:1-6, 17.
10 Consider what you see around you. Do not most people 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 their hopes and interests, governing the way they act and deal with one another? Because of this, human history is one long record of disunity and war, of immorality and crime, of commercial greed and oppression, of proud ambition, and of striving for fame and power.
11. So, then, why is God’s love for the world not inconsistent with what his Word condemns?
11 We can see, then, that loving the world as God does is far different from loving its wrong desires and practices, which he condemns. God’s love for mankind has opened the way to freedom from those sinful desires and their bad results, including death itself. He expressed that love by giving his own Son to ransom mankind. But if anyone rejects that sacrifice and continues in disobedience, the Bible says that “the wrath of God remains upon him.”—John 3:16, 36; Romans 5:6-8.
Keeping Free From Control by “the Ruler of This World”
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 in the world in the sense of sincerely wanting to help them 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—their spirit of independence, their showy display of their means, their confidence in their own importance and glory? If we love to be with people for such qualities, then we are ‘loving the world’ in the way the apostle condemned.
13. How could love for the world hold a person back from serving God?
13 Many people in Jesus’ day loved the world’s ways. So 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 more than the approval of God. (John 12:42, 43) True, some performed works of charity and did other religious acts. But they did so primarily because they wanted to be looked up to by others. (Matthew 6:1-6; 23:5-7; Mark 12:38-40) Do you not see people showing this same love for the world’s wrong course today? Yet the Bible shows that this kind of “love” can only lead to destruction.
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. An effort was made to stir up in him the selfish desire to make a showy display to impress people—to become like the world. He was even offered rulership over all the nations of the world with their glory. But he flatly rejected those appeals to selfish desires. They came from the one who first challenged Jehovah God’s sovereignty, Satan the Devil.—Luke 4:5-12.
15. Show from your Bible who “the ruler of this world” is.
15 Knowing of Satan’s offer of rulership to Jesus is vital to understanding why we must be “no part of the world.” It shows that the world of mankind in general, including its rulerships, has God’s Adversary as its invisible ruler. Jesus himself spoke of Satan as “the ruler of this world.” (John 12:31; 14:30; 2 Corinthians 4:4) The apostle Paul also referred to “wicked spirit forces,” demons under Satan’s control, as being the invisible “world rulers of this darkness.” Paul warned Christians of the need for spiritual armor to defend against these “rulers.”—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. Thus the “world,” that is, the mass of mankind alienated from God, “is lying in the power of the wicked one.” Through demon influence he ‘misleads the entire inhabited earth,’ including its earthly rulers, steering them against God and his Kingdom.—1 John 5:19; Revelation 12:9; 16:13, 14; 19:11-18.
17. (a) What does the attitude 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 This may sound hard to believe. Yet, do not most people of this world clearly manifest the attitude and works of God’s Adversary? Worldwide we see the lying, hatred, violence, and murder that identify those who ‘originate with the Devil,’ having him as their spiritual “father.” (1 John 3:8-12; John 8:44; Ephesians 2:2, 3) Surely this spirit 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 Also, do not the vast majority of people trust in human schemes to bring peace and security? How many people do you know who really look to God and his Kingdom for the solution to mankind’s problems? Yet their confidence in human political systems is wrongly placed, as Jesus said: “My kingdom is no part of this world.” His Kingdom does not have its “source” in this world, because men do not set it up or 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 of its opponents, we need to recognize the hard fact that Satan dominates this world and its systems. That includes its political arrangements such as the United Nations. We need to keep free from all of these 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 that early Christians were respectful, law-abiding citizens. But they were determined to be “no part of the world,” even though this brought persecution upon them. 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.57
“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.58
“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.”—Treasury of the Christian World.59
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 keeping free from involvement in the world’s affairs, Jehovah’s servants do not contribute to its divisive nationalism, its racialism, or 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—to share its desires, ambitions, and prejudices, to admire its thinking and philosophies, and to 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 a person follows the Bible’s 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.
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 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 viewpoint of life, then we identify ourselves as friends of the world, not of God. The world’s spirit produces “works of the flesh” 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.” On the other hand, 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, subject to the influence of this present evil world, we should not be surprised to find a need for changes in our lives in order to please God. Worldly people, for example, heap honor and glory on those 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 goals 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, to believing that happiness depends on possessions. So they give these far greater importance than things of spiritual value. Yes, following the world’s course will gain the world’s friendship for you. But it 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 in an effort to control your thinking. So, it takes real effort and faith to ‘make your mind over’ to see things from God’s viewpoint, understanding why ‘the wisdom of this world is foolishness in his sight.’ (Romans 12:2; 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. We can see the harm already resulting from such “wisdom,” 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 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 advocate God’s government for earth, his Kingdom by his Son. After all, even some criminals may raise families, provide for them, and 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 with any of the world’s schemes, devoting time and energy to them? If you want to help someone who is sick or diseased, will you do so by getting so close that you contract the same sickness or disease? Or will you not be of far greater aid if you stay healthy yourself and try to help the person 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 God’s New Order—provided we ourselves keep separate from the world. (2 Corinthians 6:17) Wisely, then, shun involvement in the world’s schemes. 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.