To be “in love with this present world,” like Paul’s former companion Demas, is to be deceived by its illusions. Demas deserted Paul in his hour of greatest need, much like the disciples deserted Jesus during his hour of trial. In fact, Paul writes, “At my first defense, no one came to stand by me, but all deserted me.” All of his fair weather friends, it seems, turned out like Demas. They loved “this present world” too much to sacrifice their livelihood for the hope of the world to come. But, in true Christ-like fashion, Paul says, “May it not be charged against them!”
Paul was ready to endure whatever suffering “this present world” could inflict upon him. His wayward companions seemed lacking in perseverance. Being “in love with this present world” clouds one’s perception of things. From a “this present world” perspective, the natural is the reality, not the spiritual. Thus, one can, as Jesus says, “see a cloud rising in the west” and “say at once, ‘A shower is coming.’ And so it happens,” and “see the south wind blowing” and “say, ‘There will be scorching heat, and it happens.” In other words, one can discern all the natural phenomena of “this present world” but be completely blind to the true spiritual climate of “the present time.”
Jesus’ words were a stark warning to a generation blissfully unaware of its impending doom. They could judge by natural appearances, but they could not discern their own sorry spiritual predicament, punctuated by their inability to recognize who Jesus was and what his coming meant. They were all too eager to receive a Messiah who would inflict violence upon their enemies and free them from foreign rule. They were not prepared, however, for a Messiah who would bring division within their own households. But Jesus emphatically declares, “I came to bring fire on the earth,” and the first to get burned will be the household of Israel itself. His coming means not peace, but division, “three divided against two and two against three, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”
This is what might be called a perfect division; the kind of division which can only come from the One who wields the double-edged sword of the Word of God. It is not what those “in love with this present world” expected from the Messiah. They expected him to take on Israel’s enemies. They did not expect him to take on the enemy within. But that is exactly what Jesus came to do. He came to cleanse the temple and drive out those who had turned it into a den of robbers. The ones he came to judge first were those who should have known better. But they were “in love with this present world” and did not realize their love affair was little more than a form of spiritual adultery.