Do you remember the Disney version of Pinocchio? I do. I’m a big Disney fan but Pinocchio, in all honesty, has never been a favorite of mine. It’s too dark. I mean, it’s supposed to be a children’s story about a little wooden puppet. But it really holds powerful illustrations about how our behavior affects our futures and also the lives of others who are in a relationship with us.
Take for instance the scene on Pleasure Island. A very sinister man collects disobedient little boys and brings them to an island carnival of complete indulgence. There’s smoking, drinking, junk food, roughhousing, and destroying things. Everything is free. There are no consequences. There are no limits. And the boys run wild trying to take as much for themselves as they possibly can.
Until, one by one, they change into donkeys. It’s why they’ve been taken there. The evil man sells them once they are donkeys. He entices little boys to disregard what they know is right. Instead, they are encouraged to behave without any thought to guidelines established by people who love them and have significantly greater life experience. And when this lifestyle catches up with them, they are required to submit who they once were and who they could have been in order to exist as something far beneath their potential and design. In their case, donkeys.
It’s just a children’s story, right? Or is it? 1 John 2:15 says, Do not love the world, nor the things that are in the world. Why? The world is filled with beautiful things. The world is filled with fantastic people. The world is, for now, our home. Why should we not love it?
It is because the world can, if we let it, pull us into behavior that is inconsistent with Christ’s teachings. John is talking about a world that is morally evil. A system that is opposed to all God holds dear. The world John refers to is the sensual cravings of the flesh, the boastful pride of life, the confidence we place in our own resources, and the misplaced trust we put in things that are actually passing away.
Friends, Jesus is clear about how we are to behave. When asked about the greatest commandment, Jesus gives us three instructions. Love God. Love Others. Love Self. That’s a concrete command to love. We are supposed to love. We are made to love. We are incapable of not loving if we are connected in relationship to Jesus Christ.
But, as long as we are in this world, we will be tempted to love things that aren’t of God. We will be tempted to chase things that will not satisfy. We will be tempted to desire things that are not honoring. And when we cling to those worldly things, we will find ourselves much like the Pleasure Island boys. Changing into a version of ourselves that is far away from the one God created, designed, and called.
But hear this good news. We all do it. We all run to things that will only hurt us. And when we do, and it doesn’t get any better than this, Christ watches for us. He stands ready for the moment we will remember what we know. And when our eyes meet His, His arms open wide to welcome us back home.