How can you and your family be “in the world” but not “of the world”? How do Christians avoid loving and conforming to the world and yet still follow Christ’s command to go into the world to spread the gospel? The Christian’s relationship with the world can be tricky to navigate and teaching your children the importance of holy living is not always easy. Understanding what the Bible says about the world and our relationship to it is critical to having a right relationship with God and the first step in raising children to be imitators of Christ. As parents, we must first make sure our own lives reflect Christ and then teach our children how to live biblically.
What it means to be in the world but not of the world
When teaching your children what it means to “love not the world” during a Bible lesson or in everyday activities, you can explain the following key New Testament passages. In both passages, Jesus is the speaker.
If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.
John 17: 14-15
I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil.
To help children understand what Jesus teaches in these passages, we must first understand what He means by “the world.” First, there is certainly a physical aspect to the “world” in view. In John 17:16, Jesus prays that the Father would not take His followers out of the world. Here, He was praying for their physical preservation until they had accomplished the Father’s will.
But there is a metaphysical aspect of “the world” in these passages as well. Dr. Randy Leedy, a longtime Greek professor, explored the Old and New Testaments references to “the world” in his book Love Not the World: Winning the War Against Worldliness. His definition is lengthy but helpful for us to consider:
The world is a spiritual kingdom ruled by Satan, in unremitting conflict with the kingdom of God, consisting of visibly a mass of living people who do not know God, and who, in response to satanic allurement that plays upon fallen human nature, corrupt the various aspects of God’s earthly creation into avenues for the gratification of self instead of the glory of God, thereby incurring eternal judgment and destruction (p. 69).
This is the world that Christ has rescued us from. When we join ourselves to Christ in faith, we are no longer “of” or “a part of” this world.
How to teach your children to be in the world but not of it
As Christian homeschoolers, we have the responsibility to teach our children how to be in the world but not of the world. Our teaching must start with modeling—our choices should reflect the fact that we are indeed separate from the world and that we want nothing to do with the world’s thinking and actions.
We also need to make sure that our children are learning how to view the world as God sees it. Secular textbooks only teach our children how to think as the world does. Instead, our children need to be taught a biblical worldview of every subject. They need to be taught how to think through the issues of their day within the framework of the Word of God.
We must also emphasize the dangers of loving the world. If we love the world, we must seriously consider whether we are truly God’s children. How can we as Christians love the very thing that Christ paid so high a price to rescue us out of?
How to be in the world, not of the world
It’s often helpful to give practical steps when explaining how not to be of the world, so here are a few that come straight from Scripture.
1. Love not the world.
Even though we as Christians are no longer part of the world, we can still be allured by it. John warns us of the danger of loving the world in his first epistle.
I John 2:15-17
Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.
2. Do not conform to this world.
And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
What does it mean to be “worldly”?
Since we do live “in the world,” sometimes it is hard to recognize worldliness—acting or thinking like the world—in our own lives. But the world shouldn’t be influencing our thoughts and actions. Instead, we need to have our thoughts and actions brought into submission to God’s Word.
3. Be set apart from the world.
2 Corinthians 6:17
Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you.
We might be tempted to think that as long as we’re not loving the world or conforming to it, we can mingle with it without consequence. But we are actually called to live a life completely separate from it. We are to live so distinctly that no one could call into question our loyalties.
4. Go out into the world.
And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.
Since Christ shed His own blood to rescue us out of Satan’s kingdom, we have the responsibility to share the good news of that rescue with everyone the Lord brings across our paths.
Finally, we have to teach our children the importance of having a close, personal relationship with God. It is that relationship that will best protect them from the world and its influences. John Ernest Bode said it beautifully in the hymn “O Jesus I Have Promised.”
Oh, let me feel Thee near me;
The world is ever near;
I see the sights that dazzle,
The tempting sounds I hear;
My foes are ever near me,
Around me and within;
But, Jesus, draw Thou nearer,
And shield my soul from sin.