What does “love the world” mean?

Don’t you love it when kids discover the answers to their own questions? A second grade child recently asked me a great question: “What does ‘love the world’ mean?” Soon the class helped answer her question.

Our Sunday school that week actually combined two lessons. (We were making up for a week church-wide Sunday school would not meet.) One lesson was based on James and emphasized showing mercy. The other taught from 1 John 3:10-18 that we should love others the way God loves us. This is where a question arose that I could not easily answer.

First John 3:10-18 explains that we love other people because God showed His great love for us in what Jesus did. We obey God because we love Him. Not everyone obeys God. In fact, some people are downright mean. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t love them and help them.

At this point, my co-teacher read the verse that sparked the question. 1 John 3:13 warns, “Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you.” The lesson halted there as a girl piped up, “What does ‘love the world’ mean?” (This “churchy” phrase is found in 1 John 2:15.)

Because that was a tangent to the main focus of our lesson, I said it was a good question that we needed to talk about, but let’s do it after my co-teacher finishes the Bible lesson. The girl agreed and we moved on.

Are you ready for the best part?

My co-teacher continued the lesson. When we love and help other people (like by giving those who need it clothes or food), we are saying thank You to God for loving us. We are loving other people because God loves us. Jesus died and came back to life again to take our punishment for sin. That wasn’t easy and it was (and still is) a big deal. We obey God because God showed His great love for us in Jesus. We obey God because we are grateful for what He has done for us. We do it because we love Jesus more than anything or anyone else.

That’s when my questioner piped up again. “Is what ‘love the world’ means? Loving something more than Jesus?” Taken aback, I affirmed, “Yes, it is. The world is the people and things around us. If we love something in the world more than Jesus, that’s ‘loving the world.’ That’s a sin.”

I had barely finished when other class members chimed in. “Like money?” “Or playing games?” “Or parties?” I forgot what else was named, but it was a joy to reply to the examples stated on top of one another – “Yes. That’s the love of the world.”

What this says about teaching kids

Several things about this warm my heart and caused me to share this with you today.

  • Kids asking questions like this show that they are listening.

The student who asked this question struggles with sitting through the Bible lessons. She gets distracted easily and rarely wants to participate in any Bible skill activities. Sometimes I wonder how the Lord will reach her precious, loving, kindhearted, distracted heart. Then a moment like this happens. She’s listening! God’s working in her heart! Praise the Lord!

  • Kids who ask questions and suggest applications are really thinking about what they are learning.

This is why I love to teach. It’s not enough to be able to parrot back the right answers. Salvation is about Holy Spirit led heart-change which comes from hearing and receiving the Word of God. Moments like this show that the work of teachers like me is not in vain.

I pray this story encourages you today. Keep up the good fight! Don’t give up when it seems like you’re not making any progress. You are, sweet teacher and parent! You are.

“So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It will not return to Me empty, Without accomplishing what I desire, And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.”

Isaiah 55:11 (NASB)

 

for ‘Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.’

How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news of good things!’”

Romans 10:13-15 (NASB)

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