Us vs. the World
Greetings, fellow disciples of Jesus,
In our Gospel readings from Sunday morning worship in recent weeks, we have heard Jesus speak of “the world.” He’s not referring to the natural world He created; rather, He is talking about the collective spirit of those in rebellion against God and His Kingdom. It’s a hard word Jesus speaks.
In His prayer to the Father, Jesus says that, while we live in the world, nevertheless we do not belong to the world and for this reason the world hates us, even as it hates Jesus:
“I have given them your word,
and the world has hated them
because they do not belong to the world,
just as I do not belong to the world.
– John 17:14
This echoes what Jesus had told the disciples not long before that prayer:
“If the world hates you,
be aware that it hated me before it hated you.
If you belonged to the world,
the world would love you as its own.
Because you do not belong to the world,
but I have chosen you out of the world
—therefore the world hates you.”
– John 15:18-19
The world, as Jesus describes it, is a harsh place. But it’s really not a place so much as it is a people. “The world” is a people who have no room for God in their lives; a people whose values do not reflect the values of the Kingdom; a people who live in every nation, every culture under heaven and yet among whom the people of God in Christ Jesus can find no home.
This might get us thinking along the lines of “it’s us versus the world.” That can be a very dangerous mentality to hold. Sure, we can romanticize it and picture ourselves as Paul Newman and Robert Redford going out guns-a-blazing in “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” but God has a different purpose for us.
Remember what else Jesus has to say about “the world.” It is beloved by God.
“For God so loved the world
that he gave his only Son,
so that everyone who believes in him
may not perish but may have eternal life.”
– John 3:16
Yes; God loved the very world which would crucify His only Son. By His death God forgives our sins. Through the preaching of this Good News, God has called people out from the unbelieving world and through the gift of faith has made them believers in the crucified and risen Lord Jesus. To these believers, Jesus says:
“Love your enemies
and pray for those who persecute you…”
– Matthew 5:44
That’s right. Jesus calls us to love the enemies of the gospel and pray for the persecutors of the Church even as God loves them. This is a hard calling; messy. It’s not romantic—it’s rough. But the God who calls us is faithful and He is with us. Through our witness and service, He continues to love this world. By His strength, so shall we until He takes us home.
The Lord be with you.