In practice we don’t always hate the world (sinful rebellion) as our enemy. In practice, we don’t always act as if God is our friend. If we did, we would always want to do his will.
Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.
With these words James presents a stark contrast between two different relationships. There’s your relationship with the world and then there’s your relationship with God. The two ought never to be of the same sort. One way or another these two relationships should always be radically opposed.
Now we could consider what it means to have friendship with the world. We could look at what that involves and all its different permutations. If this were a sermon, I’d definitely do that. However, in this brief meditation, I want to go a different route. If what the Holy Spirit says is true (which it is), then we ought to be able to flip the terms around in his formulation. When we do that, we discover something remarkable.
What I mean is this: if “friendship with the world is enmity with God,” then the reverse follows as also true. It is also true that “enmity with the world is friendship with God.” Moreover, anyone who wishes to be an enemy of the world is a friend of God. When we put it like that, two key questions still need to be answered.
First, what would it mean to be an enemy of the world? Enmity with the world means a relationship of hostility or hatred with the world. And what is meant by “the world” here? It refers to everything associated with humanity’s rebellion against God. “The world” is all the different ways in which sin manifests itself amongst human beings. Being an enemy of the world really means being hostile towards sin. Rather than embracing or coddling sinfulness, you hate it and long to see it destroyed. Being an enemy of the world means you harbour no affection for the rebellion which has the potential to destroy you and other human beings. This is the way it ought to be for those redeemed by Christ.