Telling the World What’s What
John 15:18-19/Romans 12:1-2
I’ve said it often before, but just to remind you, I love the newspaper comics. We will go to any lengths to make sure we have a paper each day just so we can read the comics—and so my wife can do the puzzles.
One I really enjoy is Pearls Before Swine. The central characters are Goat, Rat, and Pig, with enough “bit players” to keep things interesting. Recently, Pig was writing a letter to the world: “Dear world,” he said. “You’ve done lots to try and bring me down this year. But I’m still standing. IN YOUR FACE, WORLD.” Pig turns to Rat and says, “Sometimes you gotta let the world know who’s boss.”
Sometimes you gotta let the world know who’s boss. Amen to that!
I believe that’s the concept behind both of today’s Scripture passages: letting the world know who’s boss—letting the world know what’s what. Jesus and Paul speak frequently about the world, and seldom in a positive sense. For them the world is the antithesis of the kingdom of God. God and God’s kingdom stand on one side of the balance, and the world stands on the other. We can’t hold a position in the middle of the seesaw; we’ve got to choose one side or the other to come down on.
Speaking to his disciples on the last occasion he will be with them, Jesus tells them that the world hates them—and that’s OK. The world hated him first. If they are going to follow Jesus, they should expect enmity from the world—not only expect it, but welcome it.
“If you were of the world,” Jesus says, “the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, therefore the world hates you.”
There’s the choice. Love the world and the world will love you back. Love Jesus and the world will hate you. No middle ground. As Pete Seeger asked, “Which side are you on?”
If choosing sides were the end of it, life would be great. Unfortunately, even though the world hates us for standing with Christ, it won’t leave us alone. That’s part of Jesus’ message to his disciples. The world doesn’t hate us as much as it hates what we stand for. It wants to break our relationship with Jesus and get us back on its side.
We see this in the words of an old hymn by William R. Featherstone.
My Jesus, I love Thee, I know Thou art mine,
For Thee all the follies of sin I resign.
In the church where I grew up we sang, “For Thee all the pleasures of sin I resign.” We admitted that sin can be enjoyable—at least at first. Most of us have realized that over time sin becomes less and less enjoyable as we become more and more trapped by it.
Making a decision for Christ is the first step in a long journey. Our salvation isn’t complete—we’re not safe from the call of the world—until we’re over the Jordan and into the Promised Land. Until then, we continue to choose between the world and Christ every day.
Paul wanted his readers (and that includes us) to realize the necessity for coming down on Jesus’ side of the balance and staying there. He tells us, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind…” We often speak about having Jesus in our hearts, but it is the mind where temptation begins. We must be transformed—changed—away from the world and to Jesus. And we must keep following wherever he leads.
“I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back. The world behind me, the cross before me. No turning back”