These words came from the upper room where Jesus gathered with his Apostles on the night he was betrayed. Jesus would soon leave this world behind. Forty days after his resurrection Jesus would ascend back to the right hand of the Father in heaven, having accomplished his mission of salvation.
While Jesus was leaving the world, the disciples were not. Jesus planned for them to stay in the world to bring the message of salvation to the world: “As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.” The apostles wanted to be with Jesus and go with Jesus, even if that meant leaving this earth and going with him to heaven. But this was not the time. One day they would each join Jesus in heaven. But for now, there was work to be done. The apostles were the first that Jesus would send forth to preach the Gospel in his place.
They would be in the world, but never of the world. Just as Jesus was certainly in the world, but not of the world. To be of the world means to adopt the world’s passions, attitudes, priorities, morals, philosophies, and values. But the world’s passions, priorities, morals, philosophies, and values often stand in direct conflict with those of the kingdom of God. We are here in the world to push and instill God’s priorities, passions, morals, philosophies and values. The Church is here to make the world more like the church, not to make the church more like the world.
“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life is not from the Father but is from the world. 17 And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever” 1 John 2:15-17
Jesus warned that the world hated the disciples to whom he had given the scriptures. We can expect that the world will not be happy with us – even hate us- because we have and use the scriptures. Until Christ calls us out of this world, we have the promise of his protection: “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.”
This is the awesome task we have for life. To remain in the world, but never becoming part of it, relying on Christ’s protection. We remember to whom we belong. We remember where we belong. We are like sojourners here, on our way to the Fatherland.
“Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. 11 Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. 12 Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation” -1 Peter 2:10-12
Heavenly Father, like the apostles of old sometimes we see the trouble of the world and long to be home with Christ. Strengthen us in our mission to remain here in the world to communicate the Gospel of Christ. Defend us against the evil one, lest by the weakness of the flesh we should be tempted to become of the world. Give us joy and hope each day knowing that by Christ’s merits we have a place reserved for us in heaven, that when our work here is finished, we know that we will be with our Lord forever. Amen.