Sunday

13 May 2018

John 17:6-19

“They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world.” (v. 16)

Psalm: Psalm 1


Background

Do you think that Christians should separate themselves from the world?

I have a friend who became a Christian in his twenties. As he enthusiastically committed himself to his new-found faith, he made the bold decision to destroy some vinyl records from his prized collection because he felt they were ‘of the world’ and therefore a bad influence on him. I remember watching him destroy the vinyl in the garden and wondering if he was making the right decision.

In this passage from John’s Gospel, Jesus is praying for his disciples, just before his arrest and crucifixion. It is a long and heartfelt prayer. Jesus seems to be suggesting that his followers are different because they belong to God, not to the world. Belonging to God sets them apart as holy people. However, even as they are called to be different and ‘separate’, they are also called to live in the world and be a witness to others.

How then, should we understand these words? Some Christians respond to the idea of not being ‘of the world’ by deciding to turn their backs on anything seen as secular, surrounding themselves instead with Christian music, books, church-related activities and friends. This is not bad in itself, but I am not sure this is what Jesus meant. Disciples are called to be in the world, and also to model a different way of living. This may bring trouble and opposition, but the call to identify first and foremost with Jesus remains.

Today is the first day of Christian Aid Week, when many Christians are visible in their local communities as they take part in events and door-to-door collections to raise money and to help others. Sometimes they are welcomed, but on other occasions they are ignored or refused.

And yet Christian Aid Week is a good example of living in faith in our world today. It is not about being separate from the world and its needs, but seeking to make a positive and hopeful contribution, motivated by a love of God and neighbour.


To Ponder

  • Do you think that Christians should only read Christian books or listen to Christian music? Why?
  • How can you live distinctively in a predominantly secular world?

Bible notes author

The Revd Mandy Briggs

Mandy Briggs is a Methodist minister who can usually be found at the New Room (www.newroombristol.org.uk) in Bristol, where she is the Education Officer, working with schools and groups to tell the story of the Wesleys and Methodism in Bristol and beyond.