Christians and the World

Not of the World

I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.
John 17:14-16 (NASU)

In these few verses, which are part of Jesus’ last prayer to the Father on behalf of His followers, the Christian’s relationship with the world is defined.

From this we can develop the idea of Christians being “in the world, but not of the world” – focusing upon our physical location vs. our identification and loyalty. However, understanding the difference between these ideas can be difficult, as can maintaining a true balance between the divisions within our existence.

A Key Difference

On the one hand, because we are “in the world” and Jesus does not desire for God to “take [us] out of the world”, we are not meant to cloister or separate ourselves off physically. Some have made this mistake, believing that the Christian must live an isolated, removed, and stoic existence. This is foolish because how does one engage in evangelism or influence a world he is not a part of? Being “in the world” includes knowing our world, including current events, cultural motivations, and what is on the mind of our fellow man. With this information, we are better equipped to reach others for Christ.

On the other hand, because we are “not of the world”, we are not meant to take upon the characteristics or activities of the world. The body of Christ is meant to be a truly unique group, exhibiting the qualities not of man, but of God. There is not any light produced by a source of darkness, and any group of Christians which behaves like the world will only have darkness as a source. The body of Christ has no business or place being joined with the world in any way, even for seemingly benign reasons.

Understanding the Difference

Perhaps the greatest challenge in this contrast is discerning the difference between “in” and “of”. Many argue that succumbing to cultural demands and changing what God’s Word commands is simply being “in” with the world. However, this is not the case. The reason we are “in the world” is to change the world and bring those “of the world” to Christ. If we embrace the things “of the world”, are we bringing them to anything different then what they already had?

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