For many years, Australia’s economy has grown without a recession. To all appearances, our prosperity has increased (if we ignore the unemployed and poor). Living in the ‘most liveable city in the world’, Melbourne, is good, and people are generally law abiding and neighbourly. It might come as a surprise then, to read John’s view of our society and our relationship to it. He is negative about it and critical of those who ‘love’ it. He describes our society as ‘the world’ (1 Jn 2:15). His use of this description refers to a quality within our society which is in rebellion against God and coolly indifferent to him. It is not a criticism of the material world that we live in, or else Christ himself would not have taken on our flesh (materiality), and lived amongst us. It is criticism of the spirit which animates our society and all those who do not belong to God. The ‘world’s values’ are expressed by our preoccupation and love of things and pleasure (1 Jn 2:16). It is one which celebrates ruthless ambition and success, yet it is indifferent to the poor and disadvantaged (1 Jn 3:17). The world, for John, stands in stark contrast to the love we are to have for God. A love for this world creates within a disciple of Christ a divided loyalty to opposing and irreconcilable claims.
Those who do the will of God will live for ever; those who do not, dwell in the darkness, and will perish with this world (1 Jn 2:17). But, as God’s children who are called to live in the expectation and hope of seeing Christ, this hope leads them to purify themselves from this world’s empty promises, so that we might not be ashamed when we meet Christ again (1 Jn 3:1-6).