The Lord Jesus was criticized by the Pharisees and the teachers of the law who muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them” (Lk. 15:2). Many, if not most, Christians are NOT friends of sinners. We have swallowed a lie that the fewer non-Christian friends we have the godlier we are. No. The less like Jesus we are.
What we believe, what we swallow, can spiritually kill us. And we Christians have bought into the lie that we are to be anti-world. And that means being no friend of sinners. Afterall, doesn’t the Bible say that “friendship with the world is enmity with God” (James 4:4)?
But then we looked briefly at Jesus’ prayer for us in John 17. Here is that prayer again:
Several conclusions are unavoidable if we take Jesus’ prayer seriously:
1. The word “world” can mean the planet, the people of the planet, or the pagan system opposed to God and the things of God. “World” must mean the pagan system in James 4:4 (“friendship with the world is enmity with God”) because God so “loved the world” (Jn. 3:16). In fact, it is John who tells us in I John 2:15 not to love the world. “World” must have two different meanings in John 3:16 and I John 2:15. Friendship with the pagan system opposing God and the things of God makes us God’s enemies.
2. John 17 is a perfect example of how “world” can mean several things. For example, it apparently means the planet in verse 5 (“before the world began”). It apparently means the people of the planet in verse 9 (“I pray for them. I am not praying for the world”).
3. Therefore, what conclusions can we draw about the Christian and the world from this prayer? First, any efforts on our part to take ourselves out of the world of people run contrary to Jesus’ declaration in verse 11 (“I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world”). Jesus doesn’t pray for escape for His followers, but protection (see verse 11). Second, followers of Jesus are to be IN the world but not OF the world (verse 14). Our present geographical assignment is not heaven, but earth! And we are to serve Him while we are here. (to be continued)