“As You sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.”
We live in an extremely confusing world. How so you may ask? The following issues which are acceptable practices today in some communities would be almost unthinkable years ago: commercial surrogate mother, legalised gambling, same-sex marriage, sex tourism, multimillion dollars compensation for senior management, legalised marijuana sale and consumption, legalised abortion, assisted euthanasia, contract workers, carbon tax (payment to pollute), amongst others. As the world continues to develop, there is a great uncertainty as to whether it is getting better or worst. In the name of human rights, human almost have a personal right to do whatever he/she wants! Christians are caught “in the world” and the separation between right and wrong becomes hazier every day. The things that were outright wrong many years ago are now personal choices or rights or they become a way of life for certain communities. How then are Christians to live in this confusing world?
It seems as if Jesus pre-empted this in His priestly prayer in John 17:11 when He said, “I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world ... Holy Father, protect them by the power of Your name, the name You gave me...” Jesus did not ask the Father to bring us back to heaven the moment we become Christians, in fact, He prayed for the contrary. Jesus specifically said, “My prayer is not that You take them out of the world but that You protect them from the evil one.” (John 17:15) Protection was what Jesus prayed for rather than removal from the world. Therefore, we live in an age where we are under the protection of the Holy Father in our engagements with the world (“in the world”). This is the great assurance that no matter what happens in the world, God our Father will be there to protect us. It does not mean that there will be no pains or sadness or disappointments or failures but there is the assurance that He will be there for us. The world will continue to change, some called this progress but theologically it will likely be continuous moral decay and regression in righteousness. The world will not become a better place for the people of God to live in. It will create greater challenges, tensions, uncertainties, perplexities and moral dilemma for the Christians. How then are we to live?
The first principle is that we need to live our lives as salt of the earth and light of the world (Matthew 5:13-14). As salt, we must serve the function of preservation and flavour. As Christians, we are to be the conscience for the world in areas of righteousness. In so doing, we preserve the little righteousness that is left in the world. We are also to give meaning, purpose and flavour to life as many are systematically losing hope in this confusing world. As light of the world, we shine in the darkness of moral decay. We show the way by lighting the path of life to Christ.
Jesus gave us three things to consider in His prayer in John 17. Firstly, He asked God the Father to sanctify the disciples with truth (John 17:15). This means that the Word of God becomes ever more important as the final arbiter in right and wrong. The Word of God becomes the benchmark and yardstick for all matters pertaining to life and faith. How then can we live in a confusing world if we do not have the baseline to fall back on or a baseline for us to move forward or towards?
Secondly, Jesus also prayed that the disciples will understand that they are not of this world (John 17:14, 16). Our citizenship is in heaven and thus we need to keep this in mind in our daily living. Our wealth accumulation, good life and blessed daily living are great but do they help us to be good citizens of heaven? What is a good citizen of heaven?
Finally, Jesus prayed that the disciples will have fellowship in Him much like He has fellowship with the Father (John 17:11, 23). The best way to deal with a confusing world is to stay close to our Master and Guide. In so doing, we will never lose our way!
As I watch a dynamically changing world, I wonder what the world will be like for my children and my children’s children. The things and values which we held dear today may be out of fashion in the future. How can we change with the time and still hold dear the things of God? I need greater clarity and I know that the greater clarity can only come from knowing the Word of God, knowing my ultimate destination and knowing the One who will journey with me. In so doing, I know I have hope in the face of a confusing world!