“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.” – John 17:14-15
I read this verse the other day as part of a daily exercise I am trying, but it made me think a lot about what this means for our relationship to the world and the culture around us.
This verse, and other similar ones, have certainly left a trail of misunderstanding in some places where some Christians decided that they can simply disengage from the rest of the world because they are not of this world. This also leads some Christians to adopt a nose-in-the-air attitude as they consider themselves above this world and superior to it. On the other hand, it has also led many to understand their responsibility to engage in this world as representatives of the kingdom of heaven.
I had a youth leader in high school who spoke on this topic as a response to the increasingly popular line of bumper stickers and clothing from a Christian store that featured the slogan “NOTW” or “Not of this World.” He reminded us that although we are set apart in Christ, we are also people who are commissioned to reach every nation with the message of Christ, and we can’t do that if we stay in our own little world.
It is a very tricky line to walk, and it can be difficult to stay culturally relevant while still holding ourselves to the standards citizens of heaven are called to. I have found that a lot of us manage this by trying to section off parts of our lives so that sometimes we live in our Christian bubble, and other times we live in our “secular” world where its ok to swear and party or disregard Jesus. As a student at a Christian college, I see this every time I come home for the summer or on breaks; at school I live in one spirit-led way, then at home I disengage to hang out with my old high-school friends and never talk about God.
A blog post on Patheos last week, found here
, pointed out this conundrum by sharing a funny video parody featuring the Christian housing community called “Bubble Creek Canyon” that literally creates a bubble for Christians to live inside on. The interesting question later in the post was an example from DePaul where some students led a campus event asking the question “If Jesus came to DePaul, what would he do first?”
This is a great question for us to ask ourselves – If Jesus came to your workplace, if he came to your city, if he came to the United States, what would he do first? Although it would be humorous to think of Jesus seeing the sites like the Statue of Liberty of The White House, I can’t even imagine where he would begin. Would he hang out with Lady Gaga, or JayZ? My guess is that he would do something that seemed secular, but he would be living and preaching the word while he did it.
That very idea is why nothing in our lives should be secular. That verse from John states it so clearly – because if Jesus had wanted us to live separate from him, he wouldn’t have prayed that we not be taken out of the world. Instead he prays for us to be protected from evil, for he knows that trying to live in two worlds at once will be a challenge filled with temptation. I see this verse as an amazing commission of love – Jesus Christ, the son of the Most High God, is sending us out trusting that we can do what he has asked of us, knowing that it will be hard, but protecting us along the way.
What do you think, what would Jesus do first if he came to where you are?
How can we live a life that balances being culturally relevant and part of the world, but still separate from it at the same time?