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The Christian's Relationship to the World

Saturday, January 14, 2006

In the high priestly prayer of Jesus Christ in John 17, the Lord Jesus Christ prays for His disciples as well as for those of us "which shall believe on me through their word." To consider the very fact that while Jesus Christ was on earth He was praying for me is encouraging, but, of course, we understand that even now He "ever liveth to make intercession" and this high priestly prayer just serves as a precurser of His continuing role of intercessor. I may want to explore this concept further on another post, but, for now, I want to consider a different aspect of this prayer of Christ.

As Christ is praying to His Father, he uses the term "world" 19 different times in 14 verses during this chapter. It is obvious that as Christ was preparing to finish His earthly course, He was concerned about the relationship between His disciples and the world.

Some of the important aspects of that concern is shown in His discussion of the position of the disciples regarding the world ("in the world") as well as the influence of the world on the lives of the disciples (not "of the world").

In verses 15 and 18, Christ speaks about the fact that the disciples are "in the world." In verse 15, Jesus specifically says that He prays "not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil" indicating that it is Christ's desire and intention for us that we remain "in" the world.

Unfortunately, one of the things that seems to be happening more and more frequently in American Christendom is that Christians are becoming increasingly isolated from the people in the world around them. Many Christians (as other Americans) do not know our neighbors. Our children do not know and play with any children from the neighborhood. We are sequestered in comfortable homes and are involved in "Christian" sports leagues, "Christian" schools, "Christian" schools, and even "Christian" diet groups. Many of us do not have a clue about how to even relate to unsaved individuals. I know of one Youth Pastor who actually would go through and teach his (predominately Christian school and home schooled) teens about how to talk with unchurched teenagers.

Now, I am not against Christian schools or home schools. I am not even against church softball leagues. What I am concerned about is that believers need to be careful not to seclude ourselves into some type of monk-like existence in a world of isolation all alone, but rather that we are indeed "in the world." I believe this must be INTENTIONAL. We are "in the world" for a purpose.

Notice John 17:18

John 17:18 As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world.

Jesus indicates here that not only are we in the world by default (i.e. we are not dead), but that we are also in the world because Christ has "sent" us into the world. In other words, we are to be "in the world" on purpose. If that is the case, then I think it behooves us to consider ways that we can interact with the world around us in an purposeful manner. (Perhaps in a future post -or in the comments section - we can interact about ways to do that in an uncompromising fashion.)

It is interesting and sad, however, that not only has much of modern American Christianity somehow missed the concept of being "in the world" but we have also gotten the concept of not being "of the world" wrong as well.

Christ did not only indicate that Christians are to "in the world", He also clearly indicated that Christians are not to be "of the world." I believe that (at least in part) this is signifying the fact that believers are not be the products of the world and full of the world's influence in our lives.

Yet, again, as we look around us, it seems that we have missed the boat on this as well. When you consider the results of numerous polls such as the ones put out by George Barna, you find that repeatedly Christians are just like the world around us in regards to what we allow into our lives. Christians watch the same type of shows (and movies). Christians have developed the same relativistic attitudes and thinking processes. Christian children often watch the same cartoons and shows. Christian teens often listen to the same music. Christian adults are consumed with the same "self-help" agenda or latest psycho-bable as expounded on Oprah or Dr. Phil. Instead of intentionally influencing our world around us for Christ, we are being subtly and consistently influenced by our world to think and act contrary to what Christ intended.

Be "in the world" not "of the world" - it seems so simple, yet it seems like far too often modern Christianity (myself included) has found itself "of the world" yet not "in the world."

Just my thoughts,



Andy Rupert said...

I agree with you. This seclusion is a definite problem. Our school has a lot fo activities. Unfortunately, these events do not give them much other time to interact with those outside the bubble.