THE CHRISTIAN'S CALLING TO THE WORLD
What is the calling of Christian believers with regard to the unbelieving world in which we live? On the night before he died, Jesus prayed that the Father would send us into the world, just as he was sent into the world. He also prayed that the Father would keep us from the evil one. He recognized, too, that just as he was hated by the world, so Christian believers would also be hated by the world. The relationship of Christians to the cultures in which we live is a complex one. Reading the words that Jesus prayed for his church in John 17:14-23 will help us see this complexity. Jesus addresses many issues in this specific passage, but here we will focus on those that relate to our calling in the world. We begin with the reason why the Father sent Jesus into the world—here we will have to draw on earlier statements made by Jesus that are recorded for us in John's Gospel.
THE FATHER'S LOVE FOR THE WORLD
Jesus came into this world of unbelief, rebellion against God, and disobedience to God's commandments, in order to reach the world with his love. He was sent by the Father to live a life of full obedience to the Father's word, and then to offer up his life as a sacrifice for the world, because of the Father's great love for the world. Whoever believes in Jesus will be granted God's forgiveness and acceptance and becomes a child of God, born by the Spirit into his family.
SENT INTO THE WORLD BY JESUS
Just as Jesus was sent into the world by the Father, so he sends all those who believe in him into the world. The Christian's calling is never to retreat from the world of unbelievers into an enclave where there are only fellow Christians, nor is it a calling to personal separation, where the only people one knows are fellow believers, for as we see in the Gospels, Jesus lived among those who did not know him.
THE HOSTILITY OF THE WORLD
In the world we can expect hostility and even hatred, for Jesus experienced this from some of those around him. The reason for this is that the world is a place where many do not honor God, trust in his love, or walk in his ways. The world is also a place where Satan, the evil one, is actively at work, seeking to keep people satisfied with anything but the worship of God alone.
IN, BUT NOT OF, THE WORLD
While Christians are to be in the world, they are to live not in conformity to the standards of the world, but rather in obedience to the Father's word, just as Jesus did. We are to be in the world, but not of the world. Our calling is to give ourselves to being made holy by the truth of God's Word, by the beauty of his laws, and by the power of his Spirit.
DEMONSTRATING THE TRINITY'S LOVE
We are to seek to demonstrate in our lives the perfect love that has existed between the Father and the Son through all eternity. It is the reality of love in our lives which will be one of the most powerful means of people in the world seeing the beauty of the message of Christ. By our love people will know that the Father sent the Son into the world. By our love for one another, people will know that we are loved by God.