In the World, But Not of the World
I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. John 17:14-18
There are times when the attacks of Satan through the world are clear and overt. Such times are easier for Christians to be reminded of the spiritual warfare that is happening each day as Satan prowls around looking to devour the Church’s children and adults alike. Most of the time though, the techniques of warfare employed by Satan and the world are far more subtle. Movie storylines that humanize sinful behavior or song lyrics that popularize sexual immorality with a catchy chorus and a good beat are some of the secret weapons of our culture today.
When we see the war being waged around us, it is easy to want to retreat behind the wall of a safe place of refuge. And we do. The Church is such a place of security, a ship where we find safety from the winds and the waves of the culture that blow. When we gather in the nave (the central part of the church where the congregation assembles, drawn from the Latin word for boat), we rest securely in the ark of the Christian Church, however we do not remain there.
Like Peter said, “It is good to be here.” It is good to be in the presence of our Lord and to receive His gifts. However, Jesus did not pray in His high priestly prayer that the Father take us out of the world, but that He would sanctify us through His Word and keep us from the evil one. Peter, James and John did not remain on the mountain after Jesus was transfigured, but came down back to the challenges and hardships that awaited them. Our retreat from the world is not permanent, but a brief leave from the front lines of battle so that we can get the rations of the Word and Sacraments and the supplies of the strength given through those gifts that we can continue. Christ’s prayer is that we would be in the world to serve in our vocations, bear witness to our Savior, and love our neighbor, but His prayer is also that we would not be of the world. It is through His Word and the Holy Spirit’s work that we are sanctified and strengthened so that we are not struck down by the devil and the world. May God bless and keep us as we live in the world, but not of the world.
Prayer – And when the fight is fierce, the warfare long, Steals on the ear the distant triumph song, And hearts are brave again, and arms are strong. Alleluia! Alleluia!
The golden evening brightens in the west; Soon, soon to faithful warriors cometh rest; Sweet is the calm of paradise the blest. Alleluia! Alleluia! Amen. (LSB 677, v. 5-6)
Fraternally in Christ,
President Lee Hagan