In the World But Not Of It – What Does That Mean? (John 17:6-19)

A broken humanity can be redeemed when people live in love.


“The world has hated them, because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world.”

Ah, the infamous “Be in the world but not of it,” saying. How dangerously these words have been misunderstood!

In this final discourse to his disciples before his death, Jesus has a lot to say about contrasting his way with the way of the world. His words have been twisted to make it seem as if God hates the world and has destined it to burn, except for those who are raptured out or otherwise “saved.” It can set up an us-against-the-world mentality — judgmental and condescending. This can’t be what Jesus meant.

If God so *loved* the world, what do these words mean? What does Jesus mean by “world” and “hate” and “joy?”

The Powers that Be are about to crucify Jesus for being in solidarity with the poor, marginalized, and exploited. Jesus has shown the powerful and the vulnerable alike a way of living in love that defies the powers of exploitation and marginalization. He has shown that poverty is not punishment or condemnation from on high, and that a status quo of excessive power and wealth for a few at the expense of many is not God’s intention. He has shown a new way of living, and a path to that way that comes not through violence — a tool of the fallen Powers — but through love. And the Powers want to crush this new way to maintain control. That’s what Jesus means by “the world.”

Jesus is not talking about the planet or creation or even the people who uphold systems of injustice, but the injustice itself when he speaks of the “the world.” Even the people who wield power unjustly are made in the image of God, the image of Love. If by “Powers,” we mean the way in which people structure and organize themselves in order to live together, then the Powers — human relationships — have been corrupted, and must be redeemed.

A broken humanity can be redeemed when people live in love. Jesus prays that the disciples will live in love and not succumb to the temptations of the fallen powers which set people up over and against one another. He prays that the disciples will find unity in Love just as Jesus and God the Father relate in such perfect love that there is no rivalry between them.

A note on Judas — John sets Jesus and the rest of the disciples over and against him, in a prayer about resisting the temptation toward over-againstness! Adam and Lindsey and friends discuss further.

The Olive

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As our friends point out, Jesus demonstrates trust and vulnerability toward his disciples with this prayer. In fact, our friends at our Facebook Live conversation shared so many insights and taught Lindsey and Adam much this week. We encourage you to add your voice and wisdom to the conversation every Wednesday on Jesus Unmasked at at 11 am CT/ 9 am PT on the Raven Foundation Facebook page!