John 17:14-15 “I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.”
It’s not at all that this passage was unfamiliar to me, but I find myself blown out of the water right now as I read. The degree to which Jesus identified with His disciples, placing them on the same level as Himself, is absolutely astounding. Even though they were still dense, not grasping much of what He was telling them, He still says here, “They are not of the world any more than I am of the world.” That is an incredible statement! And then in verse 20 He explicitly included all the spiritual generations of believers who would come after, having believed because of the apostles’ message – and that includes all believers today. That said, we need to remember that Jesus didn’t have an easy time of it. It was a matter of a few hours at most until He was arrested, abused horribly, and then crucified. We can certainly not demand better! Just last night I watched a video report of the persecution that is going on today in India. The “untouchables,” the people at the very bottom of the caste system, are coming to Christ because in Him they discover they have value, they are loved, but they are being attacked even by the government, because being at the very bottom of the pyramid they in effect support everything above them, and when they get out of the caste system by faith, the whole rest of the system collapses. American Christians don’t know how good they have it, even with the current hostility toward Biblical positions on life, marriage, and morality. That’s why Jesus prayed for us all that we would be protected from the evil one. We must not forget that we have an enemy, and that our eventual victory may go through as much suffering as that of Jesus. At the same time we must remember, as Paul reminds us, that “Our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” (2 Corinthians 4:17) Jesus was fully human, just as we are, but here He is saying that, again as Paul said, “Our citizenship is in heaven.” (Philippians 3:20) When we identify with the world, we do so to our own loss.
We once lost a potential church member when, at the close of a service and I was issuing an invitation to commitment to Christ, I said, “Take my hand as though you were taking Jesus’ hand.” She thought I was claiming to be Christ! That was certainly not the case, but at the same time, believers indeed represent Christ. One of my spiritual children has recently been told, “You are like a Buddha,” meaning that his character was so good as to seem “other-worldly.” I too need to be that way, not to draw people to myself but to the Lord whom they see through me. I could easily name countless things that would seem to disqualify me from that, but that would be placing the focus on me instead of on my Lord. I stumble all too often, but I must remember that I am no more of the world than Jesus was while He walked the earth, and so live like it.
Father, thank You for this Word this morning. Thank You for all You did in the service yesterday, with several non-Christians present, and evidence that they were touched by Your presence. I do pray that each of them would come to repentance and faith for salvation, and that in the process the current believers would be encouraged and come alive as Your disciples, Your representatives, drawing many into Your family for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!