“I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” John 17:14-17 ESV
Before his betrayal and arrest, Jesus prays to God the Father to protect His disciples after He is no longer with them in-person. Jesus clearly states in His prayer that His followers will be hated and ostracized just like He was. This is one of the hard truths of true Christianity: it is not the popular choice and will not result in the world’s love and support. The ways of the flesh are at war with the ways of the Spirit and the flesh does not give in, or decide to coexist with, the Spirit. Jesus asks God not to take His disciples into heaven yet, as they still have work to do on this earth. Instead, He prays for protection for them and for strength as they face the hatred of the world because they follow the truth.
Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind, striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God. For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear I still have. Philippians 1:27-30 ESV
Paul reflects Jesus’ statement of the world’s hatred in his letter to the Philippians, urging them to stand firm in the faith and to suffer for Christ’s sake. Paul knew what discipleship cost and wholeheartedly believed that his portion in Christ was worth the suffering he faced on earth from followers of the flesh. Paul’s call to stand firm goes out to all believers. It is important for me to remember that the approval and love of the world is worthless compared to a relationship with Christ and that everything on this earth is temporary and fleeting. It is easy to run from the world’s hatred and to try to fit into its standards, but Jesus is clear, His disciples are not of this world and if they follow Him, they will not be accepted in it.
“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” John 17:20-21 ESV
Jesus’ prayer was not only for His immediate disciples, but for all who follow Him. It is important for me to live a life that reflects the gospel and shows God to others, not pursuing the empty love of the world. It is comforting that Jesus prayed for my protection from Satan and that His love and grace are sufficient for me. Instead of the world’s love, I have something much greater.
Dear God, thank you for sending Jesus to save me from my sins. Please help me to pursue you wholeheartedly, ignoring the pulls and temptations of the world. Give me strength and peace to endure through the trials of my life. In Your Holy Name, Amen.