Posted in Gen. musings, Religion

Stop making “the world” us vs. them

1 John 2:15-16: Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them.

For so long, I’ve been hearing this verse, over and over again, but it’s only disturbing when seen in practice. I see it in politics, I see it in broken personal relationships, I see it in troubled, angsty, confused youth. And what it ends up doing is contradict the very essence of why Jesus appeals to people.

And it appears that the people who are NOT living in an oppressive environment have time to dwell on “not loving” the terrible things of this world.

When you glob all of the people “of the world” into one, heaping mass, to disapprove of and stay away from, you stop seeing the individuals. You stop seeing the thoughts, the feelings, the dreams, the disappointments, the pain, the general suffering of each and every member of humanity.

“Not loving the world” means actively rejecting these habits our culture has indulged in, say some of my complacent, well-off (and, more often than not, male and un-racially-socioeconomically-oppressed) fellow Christians. And they’re right. We — everyone, that is, — continuously get it wrong — including those who are actually saying some of the most terribly insensitive things at terribly insensitive times, because they don’t bother using a God-given sense of empathy anymore. Instead, they try and use religion to justify their own empty search for comfort and superiority over their fellow man.

I mean, the world does suck. We all want it not to suck, especially because God and Jesus are supposed to bring hope to this broken world. So we look for ways to lessen the suck, because we want issues that we don’t understand to not exist, instead of looking for ways to fix them.

Let me ask you: which person, be him Christian or not, does well when they actively hate? There’s a difference between understanding your own circumstances and assuming your specific circumstances are the best for others, and understanding that your own circumstances do not always align with others’ interests, in turn acknowledging that you should instead want the best, unique circumstances for others.

If you hate the world, you don’t love your neighbor. Simple as that. If you “hate the sin, not the sinner” you’re judging people, not critically assessing the fact that our world has snowballed itself into a systemic, oppressive institution. Everyone here gets a short end of the stick, whether it be physically if you don’t have enough food, shelter or rights, or mentally and spiritually because you have riches but struggle with sins of the mind infinitely more.

It’s not “us Christians” versus “that world.” The world is not “a group of poor nonbelievers who don’t know that they’re going to go straight to hell if they don’t turn to our conservative ways.”

We’re all broken. We’re all terrible. And when we strive to be perfect on the outside or to do all these “works” to prove we’re worthy of looking God in the eye, we completely miss the point.

Most of the time, I find the most compassionate people – religious or not — are those who equip themselves with knowledge. They are those who listen not to persuade, but to learn. They are those who go out of their way to educate themselves on a worldly point of view that more often than not, has its merits, and reconcile it with the universal principles of love that call to people. They are those who don’t view the world as a two-dimensional, flawed concept, but who want to help everyone by showing them love, not by throwing a tract at them and waiting for God to somehow do the work Himself. How many times has someone’s personal story inspired you, as opposed to someone angrily shoving facts and statistics down your throat?

Jesus wouldn’t throw his hands up and condemn Robin Williams, a broken, hurting, despairing man, for his suicide. He probably wouldn’t write him off as a terrible person that said “fuck you” to the life God had given him.

There is a time and place for God’s judgment, and I feel that exists when you say “fuck you” to the people He created — the ones who you may not relate to, but whom you could probably still find a way to connect to.

When He says “do not love the world,” He means to not indulge in the self-seeking pleasures that our society as a whole enjoys, even at our own expense. We hate society already, theist or not, because it gives us a false message of what can ultimately make us feel whole.

But when we put others first, that self-loathing goes away. A completeness, a crying for others, a compassion exists.

And at that moment, you do hate the world. You hate the world for how it has wrecked its people. And you’re transformed by love, your hate for the world translates into determination, true thoughtful, open-minded discussion on how we can change this world for the better.

Romans 12:2: Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.

********

I’ve been reading more Relevant Magazine articles as of late, and a lot of them hit home for me. Their liberal, “love first” mentality appeals to me. It should appeal to everyone who calls themself a Christian.

Especially as a college student, I’ve distanced myself from the more conservative culture I grew up in.

It doesn’t even come down to being a Christian; I was simply more sheltered growing up Asian-American. I wasn’t aware my peers were having sex, drinking, smoking, and doing other borderline illegal things. I didn’t even know enough about that aspect of my generation to actively reject it.

So everything came easily to me — I was judging things only within the scope of my awareness. Now, of course, college is a different story.

I’m at a crossroads now, at the intersection of my Christian/Asian/Asian-Christian upbringing and what I’m rejecting as a new, independent millennial young adult. Being miles and miles away from home, from a community that I never felt truly accepted me, makes it a more intense self-examination.

But in the midst of that self-examination, I know I still believe in God.

Because now I don’t just see Him in every mission trip, during every worship session, throughout every youth retreat. Now I see Him when someone tells me their story. When someone finds their way home, when someone reconciles with a friend, when someone overcomes a drug or alcohol problem, when someone talks excitedly about their family, when someone buys me a cupcake cause they know I had a bad day, when someone blogs about being lost but finding hope nevertheless — I think I can still pick up what God’s putting down.

If God wanted us to hate this place, the one He put us in for a reason, I don’t think I’d be writing these words right now.

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