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 in possessions–is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. (1 John 2:15-17, emphasis mine)
The greatest desire of the flesh for most of us, if we are honest, is love for self. At least this is true for me.
I want to be comfortable.
I want to be gratified.
I want to be lazy.
I want to be happy.
This love for self falls into the category of love John describes in this passage. It is a prime example of worldly love, worldly desire. Today I have been confronted with the truth that I often lack love for others because of my own worldly love for self. I do not often love with God’s love because of my own misdirected desire. Without the love of the Father in me, I cannot truly love anyone.
When I treasure myself above Jesus, I am completely incapable of loving others with the love of Jesus.
This is always true.
As long as this is the case, I will view others as obstacles to what I wrongly desire rather than objects of my love as I rightly desire God above all else. As long as my treasure centers upon my own personal happiness and fulfillment, there my heart will be also. The problem is, we live in a culture that views personal happiness as its chief virtue. That virtue is to be sought and protected at all costs. If anything stands in the way of our happiness, that thing must be removed, or so the mantra has become. As long as this philosophy lives in my heart, others will be viewed as nothing more than obstructions to that chief virtue being realized.
Paul writes just prior to these verses, “Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.” (1 John 2:10-11)
The only way we will truly love others is through abiding in Christ as we treasure him above all else. Desires of the flesh, desires of the eyes and pride in possessions all exist as access points to sin. It stands to reason, then, that if those become the focus of our hearts, we will begin to walk in darkness, tripping over others as we grope for self-created and self-centered pursuits.
Father, help me to treasure Jesus above all else. Help me to abide in him. Help me to put to death any and all misdirected desires that threaten my heart. Help me to deny myself, take up my cross and follow you. As that work is accomplished through your Spirit, I pray that I would see others as objects of your great and gracious love as it flows through me, not as those that stand in the way of what my deceitful flesh would naturally desire.