Christians in Relation to the World

by Rev. Sean Finnegan on June 7, 2010
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The prayer in John 17 divides into three parts.

  1. Jesus prays for himself (17.1-5)
  2. Jesus prays for the twelve (17.6-19)
  3. Jesus prays for us (17.20-26)

A look at John 17, focusing on what Jesus says about the world

1-5 note the intimacy between Father and Son

v1: "the hour has come"

  • We are at the edge of a precipice: Jesus will be arrested in 18 and by 19 he is dead and buried. These are the last precious moments with his disciples.
  • We are at the end of a significant chunk of John called the Last Supper, which spans chapters 13 through 17.
  • Chapter 13 begins by mentioning that Satan had already put it into Judas Iscariot's heart to betray Jesus. In other words, Jesus' betrayal is imminent, premeditated, and only a short while stands between the present time of fellowship and his passion. Jesus rises from dinner and washes his disciple's feet.
  • Chapters 13-16 cover the themes:
    • they should serve one another, washing each other's feet
    • Jesus is departing soon and the disciples cannot follow him
    • A new command to love one another as Jesus loved them
    • Jesus will return and reveal himself to his disciples but not the world
    • Jesus is the only way to the Father
    • Seeing Jesus is seeing the Father; he reveals him through his words and works
    • The coming of the helper, the spirit of truth will equip them
    • Love and obedience are inseparable
    • They must abide in him like a branch in a vine so as to produce fruit
    • The world will hate them like they hated Jesus; persecution will be their lot as well
    • The advocate will convict the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment
    • The advocate will fill in what Jesus could not say
    • They will weep b/c of what will happen but then rejoice like a woman giving birth
    • Ask the Father in his name and it will be given
    • He offers a peace that even the world's tribulation cannot overcome
  • By the time we arrive at chapter 17 the room is quiet but the air is thick. The disciples feet may still be a bit wet and Jesus knows that the end is at the door. The time has come. He has told them everything he can--everything they were able to hear at that time, and now there is only one thing left to do. He prays.

6-10 the Father separated the disciples out from the world and gave them to the Son

v6, 9 "out of the world...I am not praying for the world"

  • what is "the world?"
  • Two perspectives on the world
    1. Theist: sees the world as God's creation; focuses on beauty of sky, stars, planets, moon, sun, trees, animals, humans, plants, rivers, mountains, birds chirping, etc.
    2. Atheist: sees the world as a horrible place where life is a struggle, only the fittest and luckiest survive, everything is flawed, death is ubiquitous
    3. A third perspective: Christians see both the fingerprints of God and Satan on the world. We recognize that the world is basically good because it is the creation of God and yet it has become corrupt. The fall explains all the facts. So, when thinking about the world, we can't help but think of it as both beautiful and ugly, awesome and horrifying, well ordered and chaotic, full of love and hate, pointing to God's goodness and humankind's original sin, a paradise and a hell, to be embraced and shunned.
  • Even human society is both good and evil. Care for the poor, exploration of the planet, biology, medicine, physics, some technologies are good. However, lust, greed, apathy, hatred, oppression, and rebelliousness are bad.
  • So the disciples are called by God out of the world and given to Jesus
    • (matrix analogy?)...they have awoken to the truth that the Son has been sent whereas everyone else in "the world" goes on as if everything is the same, as if the defining moment in history had not just happened right in their midst, as if the calendar had not just flipped from BC to AD since the hinge point of history had come

11-19 he is going to the Father and prays for his disciples to be kept from the evil one

v14: "the world has hated them b/c they are not of the world"

  • John 15.18-21; 1 John 3.1, 11-14

v15-16: "keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world."

  • Separation from the world
  • The subtle corrupting influence of the world (sewer analogy: mention flaw that in a sewer you don't get to see the beauty as well)
  • Two extreme views on the Christian response to the world
    1. Total separation from word: should be separate in culture, geography, language, clothing, music, how we walk, wearing shoes/clothes, etc.
    2. Total integration: same music, tv, movies, view on relationships, sense of morality, attitude towards God, politics, the poor, the outcasts (but on Sunday I go to church, if I can wake up on time, and if they don't confront my 'worldliness' in the sermon, and they have trendy 'worldly' music, and they have air-conditioning, and they don't expect anything of me, and the service is beneficial to me in some way).
    3. A third perspective: Christians are in the world but not of it. Epistle of Diognetus : For Christians are not distinguished from the rest of humanity by country, language, or custom. For nowhere do they live in cities of their own,
    Nor do they speak some unusual dialect,
    Nor do they practice an eccentric way of life.

    This teaching of theirs has not been discovered by the thought and reflection of ingenious people,
    Nor do they promote any human doctrine, as some do.

    But while they live in both Greek and barbarian cities, as each one's lot was cast,
    And follow the local customs in dress and food and other aspects of life,
    At the same time they demonstrate the remarkable and admittedly unusual character of their own citizenship.
    They live in their own countries, but only as nonresidents;
    They participate in everything as citizens, and endure everything as foreigners.
    Every foreign country is their fatherland, and every fatherland is foreign.

    They marry like everyone else, and have children, but they do not expose their offspring.
    They share their food but not their wives.

    They are in the flesh, but they do not live according to the flesh.
    They live on earth, but their citizenship is in heaven.
    They obey the established laws; indeed in their private lives they transcend the laws.

    They love everyone, and by everyone they are persecuted.
    They are unknown, yet they are condemned;
    They are put to death, yet they are brought to life.
    They are poor, yet they make many rich;
    They are in need of everything,yet they abound in everything.
    They are dishonored, yet they are glorified in their dishonor;
    They are slandered, yet they are vindicated.
    They are cursed, yet they bless;
    They are insulted, yet they offer respect.
    When they do good, they are punished as evildoers;
    When they are punished, they rejoice as though brought to life.

    By the Jews they are assaulted as foreigners, and by the Greeks they are persecuted,
    Yet those who hate them are unable to give a reason for their hostility.
  • 1 John 2.15-17
  • Overcoming the evil one
  • 1 John 5.18-20; 4-5
  • v18: "as you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world"
  • Jesus doing the unexpected
  • Jesus saying the unexpected
  • 1 John 4.14-17

20-23 the testimony of unity that the Son was indeed sent by the Father

v21: "so that the world may believe..."

  • John 3.16, note his desire for the world to be saved; he cares about the world!

24-26 the Son has revealed the Father to us and the Father's love for his Son is in us

  • John 17.21-26 modified for prayer
    I pray that we may all be one, just as you, Father, are in Christ, and he in you, that we also may be in you and him, so that the world may believe that you have sent him. The glory that you have given him he has given to us, that we may be one even as you and he are one, he in us and you in him, that we may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent him and loved us even as you loved him. Father, he desired that we also, whom you gave to him, may be with him where he is, to see his glory that you have given him because you loved him before the foundation of the world. Oh righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, he knows you, and we know that you have sent him. He made known to us your name and he will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved him may be in us, and he in us. (adapted from the ESV)

Radical ideas that put us in sync with God and out of sync with the world

  • Exclusive worship of God
  • Community unity (other-regard, concern for other's interests)
  • Vision of the future, pa???s?a, Bas??e?a, reversal of fortunes, restoration
  • Faith that even the most wicked people can repent and be forgiven
  • Childlike trust that God knows best how we ought to live
  • Confidence that self-sacrificial, cross-shaped, enemy love is redemptive
  • Sensitivity towards and an unwillingness to accept sin

Common practices in ancient Greco-Roman world that Christians rejected

  • Exposure of infants and abortion, Theatre, Circus, Banqueting, Worship of the gods, Imperial cult, Divorce


  • Character and purpose (N.T. Wright)
  • To manifest the name is to make God known as the holy and loving Father (Marcus Dods)
  • The Father's name is his character, which Jesus has manifested to his disciples, pre-eminently in his actions and words there in the upper room (13.1-16.33) (F.F. Bruce)

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