Contrary to much of popular culture, John realizes that love, in and of itself, is not the answer. It matters what we love. Some love is sinful. We must love God, his Word, and his people, but we must not love selfishness and sin. Some have wreaked havoc with 2:15, seeing there a pleasure-hating asceticism or a curmudgeonly skepticism toward beauty, enjoyment, or people. None of this is called for here. It is clear that there is a common way of life that is opposed to the things of God, a way that seems to help one get ahead but is actually opposed to God. This is what John is telling us not to love. He is not telling us to hate God’s creation or the good gifts he has given to us as part of that creation. Dietrich Bonhoeffer ministered in the shadow of the Nazi machine, where friendship with the world captivated many believers, as it seemed to promise safety. He captured the essence of our text when he wrote
“In obedience and faith alone the church took up the struggle ordained for her. From the Word alone she may be led. For her Lord she gladly gave up all cares, all security, all friendship with the world. Yes, our way leads also through distress, but the Lord bound us not to yield. Do we want to yield today for the sake of friendship with the world, do we want to sell our calling for the mess of pottage of a safe future? Through our own behavior we are making the Gospel of our church unworthy of belief!”*
*Bonhoeffer, quoted in Rudolf Wentorf, *Paul Schneider: The Witness of Buchenwald*, trans. Franklin Sanders (Las Vegas: Geodesics, 1986), 68.