"Somehow, one must love the world without being worldly."
James tells us that friendship with the world is enmity with God (4:4). Colossians says to set our minds on things that are above....not things that are on the earth (3:2). "For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?" (Matthew 16:26).
Soooo. The world is bad. Evil. Keep back 100 feet.... Right?
Eh. Not so fast. That kind of response is falling prey to a fallacy; a false dilemma. This is not an either-or kind of decision. To love or not to love, that is what we assume the question is. But it's NOT. God doesn't tell us not to love creation. The real question we should be exploring is, how to love the world.
"God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good." (Genesis 1:31). He made the world, it was good, and He entrusted us with its care. This means that if we hate mortal things, just because they're mortal, we are ultimately shaking our fists at God. This means that the gnostics are not more spiritual than us, heathen life-lovers; they're just more legalistic.
Jesus came to earth, eating and drinking. Making wine, spreading laughter. He loved the fishermen - rugged, gritty men. He touched and He smiled. He made wooden things with his hands. He held children - sticky, sweaty, giggling. He worked and walked and sailed and fished. He lived life - even peasant life - like he really, really meant it. Like life was real and bubbling and fast. He embraced utter physicalness with joy.
And then we.....with our thick philosophical glasses and crisp scholarly collars...we read big books and say big words, declaring that loving life is foolish. So we walk around with our heads in transcendent clouds, and we trip headlong over the screaming realness just under our noses. The breeze blows, the bacon sizzles, the children shriek; and we cannot wait to leave it all behind. We want to crumple everything up into one ball - the good, the bad, and the ugly - and we want toss it away. We walk through carpets of grass and never once take our shoes off.
As is so often the case, we have a problem with extremes. Either we embrace everything (including the sin), or we reject everything (including the beauty). That doesn't cut it.
We're supposed to love His world - messy, beautiful, and crazy as it is. Because He made it. Because it's good. Very good --- though not perfect. And it's entirely, painfully real. That's the way we get to love the world. And fierce love should make our hearts burn with hottest hatred for any evil that is marring the beauty. This pure love for the world keeps us from being worldly. Paradox alert.
"He loveth righteousness," says David. "And judgement: the earth is full of the goodness of the Lord." The Creator of the universe has not given up on loving, and redeeming, His world. It is good. And we should believe that.