The type of thinking summarized by today’s title has a lot of appeal to some people. America was founded by rebels, so that spirit influences us to this day, some more than others.
It you’ve read today’s passage, you know that our Lord is presenting a real “Us against the world” type of motif here. Now, this calls for wisdom. In order for us to understand what Jesus is saying, we need to grasp what he’s not saying. There are three meanings of the word “world” in John’s writings, both in his Gospel (in which he’s quoting Jesus) and in his epistles (which bear his own name). There’s the physical world, which the Lord Jesus co-created with the Father. John also refers to the world of people, which is what is being referred to in John 3:16, probably the most famous verse in the Bible.
Then there’s the sense used in today’s passage, which is a completely negative connotation. At first glance, it could be referring to the world of people, since believers have tended to not be too popular. But it better refers to the third sense: The world system. This is the anti-God system, headed by the Evil One, which has set itself against the Lord and everything he stands for. The reason I think it’s talking about the third and not the second is that Jesus makes it clear that we don’t belong to this “world.” We obviously belong to the world of people, but we don’t belong to the world system.
The problem is that the vast majority of the people in the world have bought into the world system, whether they know it or not. Most people aren’t anti-God purposefully or consciously, but they are nonetheless. They’re living in rebellion against his Law and his way of doing things, and refuse the only terms of reconciliation which he offers.
This, I believe, gets at the crux of what Jesus is talking about here. There are two systems at war: God’s system and the world’s system (again, led by the Evil One). You can’t belong to both systems, there’s no dual citizenship available here. And if you belong to the Savior, you'll be hated by the world, because you don’t belong to it. And this means you’ll tend to be hated by the majority of the world of people, because people’s actions are going to reflect what system they belong to.
And these two systems are irreconcilable. The Israeli Mossad and Hamas are BFF’s (Best Friends Forever) compared to Jesus and the World System. They agree on virtually nothing of significance, and one system or the other is going to triumph over the other. And the other system will be permanently shattered, as dead as Disco.
Of course, we know which side will win. In fact, as far as our Lord is concerned, it’s already a done deal. He’s already overcome the world. If you look up the reference, you’ll see that he said he overcame the world at the Last Supper. Yes, one day we’ll see the final fruits of that victory when he returns in power and glory. But even before the empty tomb and even before the Cross, he could talk as if he'd already won.
Now, in a sense, this is descriptive instead of proscriptive. In this passage, he’s not telling us to choose a side: He’s informing us of which side we’ve already chosen. But there's a sense in which we need to make a day-by-day choice. Even though we don’t belong to the world system, we definitely can act like it at times. In the way we talk and act, we're supposed to show to whom we belong. And unfortunately, the people around us can get confused about that. Let’s clear that up, shall we?
Lord Jesus, I belong to you, not the world. In everything I do and say and even think, I want to show that. Please don’t let me confuse others about that.
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