Worldliness is an attachment to the things of this world while neglecting spiritual things. It is the mindset and behavior that conforms to this world instead of being transformed by the renewing of our minds (see Romans 12:1-2). It is to choose the world’s values instead of God’s values. G.K. Beale gives a very good functional definition:
Worldliness is whatever any culture does to make sin seem normal and righteousness to be strange.1
Most of us don’t like being strange. We want to feel normal, and there lies the temptation to worldliness.
We shouldn’t be surprised at this? Peter gave a warning of exactly this kind of situation.
So they are surprised that you don’t plunge with them into the same flood of wild living—and they slander you. (1 Peter 4:4, HCSB)
Some of Peter’s readers had engaged in wild living. It was in their past. The gospel had changed them, but Peter warns them of the temptation that would come their way. Old friends would be surprised that they would not join them again in wild living. The worldly people would view the Christians as strange, and they would slander and malign the Christians for being different.
What about today? Tim Tebow is a NFL quarterback with the New York Jets. He has been outspoken about his faith. At a press conference a few years ago a reporter asked him whether he was a virgin. Now stop and think about the question. It is not the typical question asked by sports writers. Tebow answered “yes,” and it has set off lots of commentary in our society. One online dating service that specializes in infidelity has offered a million dollars to anyone who can prove Tebow is not a virgin. “So they are surprised that you don’t plunge with them into the same flood of wild living—and they slander you.”
Lolo Jones is American olympic hurdler. She finished fourth this summer. She too has been outspoken about remaining a virgin until marriage. After her disappointing finish in the olympics, some critics snidely said she should have had sex, maybe should would have run faster. “So they are surprised that you don’t plunge with them into the same flood of wild living—and they slander you.”
We each face a choice: normal and acceptable to God or normal and acceptable to the world. We can’t have both.
1G.K. Beale, We Become What We Worship, p. 300.