As Christians, we have a complicated relationship with the world. It’s a gift created by God for us, so we must show gratitude, but it’s also a place of sin and death which we are called beyond. We are supposed to be, as the saying goes, in the world, but not of the world. How can we find this balance, though?
Whenever we find ourselves in the midst of one of these seeming paradoxes, I find it is really helpful to try and understand the relationship between the two things to see if they really are opposed. In this case, we are called to show gratitude to the Creator for the gift of creation, but also to hate that same gift. Total nonsense, right? Not so fast. It’s really all about making the distinction between the giver and what is given.
Take, for example, when a kid receives a gift for their birthday. The person who gives the gift and the gift itself both deserve respect, but not on the same level. It’s great to see the kid excited about their gift, but before they’re allowed to go all out with enjoying it, they thank the person who got it for them. This is important for two reasons. First, people are more important than things, so we start with the gratitude to the person. Secondly, we connect the idea of love and relationship to the gift. The person gave us this gift as a sign of their love for us, and we treasure and enjoy the gift because we received it from a person we love.
In the same way, when we look at creation and our Creator, yes, we are grateful for what He’s given us, but we love creation, not primarily for it’s own sake, but because of who gave it to us. Creation was given to us to help us see and know God. Realistically, creation’s main value is that it serves as a lens and means for us to better know the One who created it all in the first place. When we talk about hating the world, we don’t mean a desire for its destruction or end, but only that we don’t seek it for its own sake.