The way of the world
What direction are you taking? That may or may not be an easy question to answer. Some of us will have a very clear idea about our intentions, goals and direction of our lives. But for many of us, our direction is unclear. We bounce about from one thing to the next with not much in the way of decisive direction. We feel as if our lives just keep ticking over, waiting for direction to happen.
But here’s the thing: we are all heading somewhere. Like the proverbial shark that has to keep swimming or it dies, so every human being is heading somewhere. There is no such thing as standing still. Our lives are on a journey and a movement in some direction or other.
If we feel we have no definite direction, then it is most likely that we are following the way of the world. This is the default direction of the world that we live in. It is the current that we swim in. If we feel as if we are direction-less or standing still, we are actually being swept up in the flow of the culture and society around us.
Paul talks about this flow as he speaks to the Ephesians:
As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.Ephesians 2:1,2
The ways of the world are the ways of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, Paul’s poetic way of referring to the devil. The enemy inhabits the air that we breathe and the culture that we live in, directing the current to his desires which bend toward disobedience. Notice that the ways of the world lead to disobedience but aren’t necessarily presented as disobedience. Instead it is the flow, the tide, the general direction of the world around us that leads to disobedience by those who follow it.
The way of the world is so insidious because it is so subtle. Nevertheless, this direction of disobedience attracts the wrath of God, and is the path of those who are dead in transgressions and sins. To drift into the ways of the world is to walk the way of sin and death; a danger for those who are lost, and a tragedy for those who belong to Christ.
But Paul says to those who are Christians, this is the way in which you used to live. This is the direction you used to walk. This is the path you once took until Christ broke into your life and turned you around. As disciples of Jesus we are no longer to walk in the ways of the world. We have new life and we are instead to walk in the ways of the Spirit.
That means, as Christians, we should notice and resist the drift of the ways of the world. We can no longer be satisfied by standing still and swept up by the current of culture. We swim in a different direction, which is against the current. If you have ever tried to swim against the current, you will know that it is hard work! So too for us, as we seek to follow Christ, we should not be surprised if this involves effort and energy to walk the way of the Spirit not the way of the world. But we must not give up: it is who we are and who we are called to be.