The Apostle John tells us “for whoever is born of God conquers the world.”(1 John 5: 4) Read on their own, in light of human history, these words sound troubling. For conquest implies waging aggressive war, vanquishing an enemy and taking over with no regard for those who have been pushed aside. So these words of St. John need to be discerned very carefully.
Let’s start with the word “world.”
The “world” is a word defined differently in different places in the Bible. In a positive sense the world can mean all those whom Jesus came to save — which is all of humanity, and all of creation. Jesus defines the world positively in John 3:16 when he says, “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so everyone who believes in him may not perish but have eternal life.”
In another, negative, sense “the world” means all that which stands against God and all that God values — the sinful system of things that perpetuate oppression, exploitation, and other injustice. As sinful creatures, we are all part of this world and this world is part of us. John is defining “world” in this way.
Hear the good news! God has gained victory over this world not through force and violence, but through love and peace. God has conquered through the cross of Christ, by suffering and dying at the hands of a sinful humanity, and rising again to forgive that same humanity. A key promise of the New Testament is that Christ will return to establish his kingdom in its fullness — a kingdom where sin, suffering and death will be no more.
Christ has given us a share in his conquest by forgiving our sin and bestowing eternal life. The response to this great news is heard through the voice of the psalmist: “Sing a new song to the LORD, who has done marvelous things, whose right hand and holy arm have won the victory.” (Psalm 98:1) What is that song? How does it go? It is the song of a life reborn in Christ. It is the Easter song. Let us sing it together with all people today and forevermore.