The Vicious Influence of the World
At the end of January this year, Ohio Senator Rob Portman announced that he would not seek re-election following the completion of his current term that ends in 2023. For nearly 30 years he has worked in the upper echelon of federal politics, as an advisor for presidential administrations, as a member of the House of Representatives, and now as a Senator. Over the many years, he has prided himself as being results-oriented, crossing party lines to do what he believed was right, even when others in his party would disagree. To be clear, we are not endorsing or rejecting his political views or statements, and this Editorial should not be understood in any way as to approving or disapproving his positions. But in commenting on the reasons behind his decision not to seek re-election, he cited the divisiveness that is increasingly plaguing politics today. Portman stated, “Our country’s polarized right now.… It’s kind of shirts and skins. That makes it more difficult to find that common ground. Elected officials aren’t rewarded for that. What they’re rewarded for is throwing red meat to the talk show.” We see from this example an insider’s account of the problems that face the U.S. government. The divisiveness in politics, vaunted by the media and incited by the populous, draws attention away from the hard work of righteous virtue, focusing instead on feeding an insatiable appetite of bloodlust and vitriol.
What we see right now merely foreshadows the hostility of individuals and factions that will increase as the return of Christ draws closer. Jesus Christ reminds us of the reason why this is so when He states, “And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold” (Matthew 24:12). The citizens and ironically, the lawmakers of our nations are not seeking the Will of God, but rather they are embracing lawlessness. We can see the consequences of these worldly actions today manifested in the hatred expressed against those who hold contrary opinions. Sadly, the world that we live in will need to suffer catastrophe and near-extinction before the return of Jesus Christ sets things straight.
Until then, we must endure life in this world, doing the hard work of upholding the Way of God. We know that Satan is the lying tempter who deceives the world, convincing individuals to adopt his way of sin rather than the Way of God (compare 1 John 5:19, Revelation 12:9). It is our responsibility to be on guard against these powerful forces in the world because they can be very subtle in their influence. We have the privilege of having the Truth of God through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. It provides us with a guide to discern the worldly from the spiritual. But we have to put the Holy Spirit to work in our lives if we want it to be effective! If we don’t, we too may succumb to the way of sin without even recognizing our falling away from the Truth. We know that Satan will work to deceive even the elect – those who have the Truth (compare Matthew 24:24, Mark 13:22). We must not fall into that trap. Since we live in this world that embraces a culture of conflict, we face the threat of becoming negatively influenced unless we are constantly vigilant. Jesus Christ spoke of this state of being when He prayed to God the Father in those last hours of His life on Earth, saying about His disciples, “They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth” (John 17:16-17). If we want to guard ourselves against the evil in the world that surrounds us, we must separate ourselves from the world by clinging to God’s Truth, rather than becoming influenced by the nonsense that swirls around us.
In his letter to the Romans, Paul offers instruction that can serve us very well today: “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Romans 12:2). We can renew our minds by focusing our attention on doing good, rather than those things that heighten our anger. This is not to say that we could not and must not become angry about the evils in this world or that we could not or must not hate what is wrong. We most certainly have to, but we are speaking here of the hate and anger of the carnal mind. By finding reasons to love what is right rather than hate in the wrong way, we please God. By making peace, we become sons of God. By offering mercy to others, we too will receive mercy from God. By doing good in our lives, we will overcome evil. (Compare Matthew 5:7, Matthew 5:9, Romans 12:21.)
Separating ourselves from this world is no simple task. As hard as we try, we will still become influenced by it. It is impossible to completely avoid it. Christ was the only One who was able to overcome this world and its evil influences perfectly, without ever sinning. But just as Christ served to glorify His Father in heaven, while still living in this world, we must do the same today by the way we live our lives. Our mission on this Earth is to continually work to find those areas in our lives where we can eliminate the worldly ways that influence us to sin and replace them with love and Truth. In doing so, we uphold godly righteousness and improve our own wellbeing right now, and we guarantee that we will be able to enter the Kingdom of God in the future.