The Apostle John teaches us much about not being “of the world” in his Gospel and Epistles.
Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world.
1 John 2:15-16 (ESV)
Pretty clear and stark words; we either love God or we love the world. To the proportion we love one, we exclude the other. This becomes obvious as he delineates what the world contains: the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life. Serving our flesh and our eyes easily leads to adultery, gluttony, and sloth. The pride of life fuels greed, wrath, envy, and pride. All seven deadly sins are encouraged by the world.
Thomas Merton echoes this sentiment.
You will never find interior solitude unless you make some conscious effort to deliver yourself from the desires and cares and the attachments of an existence in time and in the world.
Do everything you can to avoid the noise and business of men. Keep as far away as you can from the places where they gather to cheat and insult one another, to exploit one another, to laugh at one another, or to mock one another with their false gestures of friendship. Be glad if you can keep beyond the reach of their radios. Do not bother with their unearthly songs. Do not read their advertisements.
New Seeds of Contemplation
To sever ourselves from the drone of the world is to allow the Spirit to cleanse us, but it takes time to detox from the greed and fear that are mercilessly thrust on us in unending torrents. We don’t realize the degree to which we are immersed in them until, after a time apart, we come in contact with them again. We have been TV-free in our house for over a decade, so to be subjected to CNN (or Fox) in a clinic waiting room now is to be reminded of this greed and fear.
Once we start to disentangle from the world, we become more aware of other bits that are trying to entrap and snare us. As we become more in tune to the Spirit, we become more sensitive to the lies of the world. The Spirit helps us see them for what they are.
Perhaps the most startling passage by John in terms of the world is found in Jesus’ final prayer before his betrayal.
I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them. And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled. But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves. I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.
John 17:9-16 (ESV, emphasis added)
Jesus is not praying for the world, at least not at this point. Why would we ever want to place ourselves in a position to be outside of his prayer? May we bear the scorn of the world because we reject its lies, for if they reject us for the truth, they are treating us as they did Jesus. May we seek Jesus with such earnestness that we become not of this world, joining in this aspect of Christ-likeness.