Overcoming the World

For many of us, just surviving is a big challenge. Our lives are full, our work days are long, and our free time is very limited.

So what do we do when, as followers of Jesus, we are commanded to “overcome the world”? Not only does the Bible tell us this, it gives us a radical strategy for making it happen: love. The Apostle John makes this case most powerfully.

Apostle St. John the Evangelist,
El Greco, c. 1612
John was a disciple of Jesus and one of his closest companions. Along with Peter and James, John developed a special friendship with Jesus that provided opportunities for him to know Jesus more intimately than the other disciples. John was the one who rested his head on Jesus during the “Last Supper” (John 13:23-25) as an expression of their close friendship and he was the only disciple who faithfully remained to witness Jesus on the cross first-hand (John 19:26).

The Apostle John wrote the Gospel of John, Revelation, and the three Letters of John. In the first of his three Letters, John insists that the true test of a disciple’s life is whether or not the love of God is evident in that person’s relationship with others. John emphasizes that loving God means keeping his commands and, in doing this, followers of Jesus “overcome the world” (I John 5:4).

Although John did not use the word “peace” to describe the gospel message as frequently as the Apostles Peter and Paul, for example, the substance of his teaching is the same. The Apostle John preaches the love of God like no other first century church leader. He has a clear memory of Jesus’ gift of peace given to the disciples after the resurrection (John 20:19-23). For him, peace with God, a “right relationship” with Jesus, means living a life of love for others.

There is power in the simplicity of John’s words: “This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God has overcome the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God” (I John 5:3-5).

Stressed out? Too busy? Just trying to “make it”? This radical teaching by the Apostle John is good news if we are followers of Jesus and if we choose to live out the love of Jesus in our daily lives. John’s words are words of triumph because the love of God will “overcome the world.”

So What?
  • This truth is so hard to hear and understand, right? In our rough-and-tumble world, how can love overcome anything? It’s force and power that seems to be dominant. Have you seen any examples of love “overcoming the world”?
  • What can you do in a practical way to begin implementing these teachings? Are you willing to trust the Apostle John’s teachings that love is God’s radical strategy for “overcoming the world”?
  • Think of a person who is difficult to love, or a situation that is difficult to handle in a loving way. Then think about how you could change your approach to this person or this situation in a loving way, beginning first with prayer. Ask God to help you to take this approach of love and see what happens in the course of a month or two.