Clearly there is much good in the world. Clearly there is much to be enjoyed. It is not worldliness to enjoy things in the world. If it causes us to give thanks to God and to love Jesus more, and it is not causing us to sin, have at it. Often the views and matters that concern and worry us most have not gotten everywhere and are not as widespread as some would insist or the internet would imply. But even if these things are true, in the end, isn’t the Holy Spirit more active, more powerful and more able to keep and preserve Christ’s sheep than anything might be able to drag us away?
It’s not at all uncommon to hear about bit of Christian handwringing about the world. How will our kids manage to live as we send them to school? How will they cope with all the worldliness and pagan ideology on display? How will they (or we) function with the slew of filth that runs rampant on our televisions, in cinemas and – worst of all – across the internet on our computers, tablets and phones? We are bombarded with terrible things continually, whatever will we do?
One response to this, of course, is to just chill out a bit. Our children, at some point, have to learn to live in the world so perhaps it will do them good to figure out how to navigate it now when they are given the leeway of being children who – in the eyes of those who wish to view it as such – would at least consider them to know no better. Might it be that they will learn what others learn, but with the ability to figure it out with the help of parents who love them and want to help them navigate these things scripturally. Might it be that these things are more helpfully figured out now with these things now, where the worst of it on display is amongst their peers who display such things in the childish way children might ever do, rather than letting our kids face it for the first time at, say, university where such things are full grown, unrelentingly on display and without the safety and comfort of any family there to help? You may feel differently, and that’s absolutely fine if you do, but there is a good case to be made for this approach.
Similarly, we could talk about much that is good in the world. Usually, at this point, the bogey-term ‘worldliness’ will rear its head. As I understand it, worldliness is about devotion to the things of the world rather than the things of Christ. Essentially, side-lining Jesus for the sake of some temporal thing(s) that you ultimately value more than him. The Bible does have a lot to say about that sort of attitude, both understandably and rightly so.
But many Christians will use the term to mean something closer to enjoying anything that isn’t effectively Bible studies, sermons and singing hymns. Watching TV, going to the cinema or theatre is worldly. Drinking is worldly. Money is worldly. Holidays are worldly. Clothes are worldly. You name it, if you enjoy it and it ain’t called Jesus, you’re into a whole lot of worldliness. It is the cause of much handwringing and it is, for the most part, a load of crap.
Don’t get me wrong, anything can become an idol to us. And when something temporal has become an idol to us, we have bought into a spirit of worldliness. Loving the world more than Jesus. It is a real and genuine problem. What is not a problem is enjoying stuff in the world that God has made. God has ultimately made a world for us to enjoy. Much talk of edification seems to forget that just enjoying stuff is pretty edifying so long as we thank God for it.