Says St John in his first letter: “Do not love the system, or the things in the system.”
I translate “world” as “system” because that is what he meant. The “system” is the result of man’s effort to do without God, to manage and organise things as if He didn’t exist.
When Tony Blair said, “We don’t do God”, he was defining the kind of Britain he stood for as a “system” in the sense that St John meant it.
And it does seem to work OK – at least superficially and in the short term.
But because it has deliberately detached itself from any fixed point of reference, it is inclined to drift into uncharted moral territory. And that drift is what we are seeing gathering pace all around us.
What are the new virtues of this system? Not humility, courage, generosity, and certainly not chastity – no, these are actually undesirable in the new order. The great virtue of the system is compliance.
We all experience this every time we go to a bank, buy something online, post a parcel, pay our taxes – we must comply with the system in every case – logging in, providing specified evidence of our address, fulfilling the demands of the software which is the agency by which our compliance is recognised and received by the system. Of course, a lot of this is benign and reasonable, but it can easily slip into the malign and unreasonable as it begins to control what you can think, let alone say and do.
Already we are seeing the reach of the system extending itself into the education and parenting of children, into things we may say in an email or a tweet, and into policies we use in the conduct of our businesses. And in all these things we are expected to comply and this expectation is often supported by the threat of criminal prosecution.
In this new world of compliance, the Christians are not 100 per cent reliable. They will comply with most things, because they have been taught that government is a divinely-authorised institution, but the system will not enjoy an unlimited command of their diligence. There will be a limit, beyond which the Christian will not go.
We are now finding evidence that this limit is being reached – in the case of Christian proprietors of guest houses, of midwives unwilling to perform abortions, of Christian adoption societies unable to follow the requirements of the new ideologies.
In the Ancient World there was a long list of occupations which Christians could not take up – in our own time a new list is in process of compilation.
It will never be possible to bring the Christians fully on board in the system because they belong to Another Country and serve Another King.
And this service consists in imitating his reign of love and being the living exponents of his love. This they do in the liberty Christ gives them in his service – there is no software or system – they have his life, sacrifice and victory as their blueprint and example.