In the world but not of the world

I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth. (Gospel of John 17:15-17)

Neville Chamberlain returned to London September 30, 1938 after meeting with Adolf Hitler in Munich. He waved a piece of paper signed by both men which Chamberlain proclaimed to be a guarantee of “peace for our time.” Germany had recently annexed part of Czechoslovakia, but Hitler assured Chamberlain that this was the extent of German territorial ambitions. Less than a year later he invaded Poland, beginning World War II.

People such as Hitler will not be stopped by fine ideals and gentle words. It takes forceful words backed up by the ability to cause insupportable bloodshed. Christians should not attempt to persuade governments otherwise. Neither should Christians allow themselves to be swept up in militant patriotic fervour.

As Christians we are in the world and we should not enclose ourselves in a bubble to avoid being touched by the suffering of people around us. We should react with sympathy and compassion to the suffering around us and help to relieve those who are wounded, physically, emotionally or materially by the strife in our world.

But it is not for us to bear the sword, to take part in the strife or to cause suffering. The sword is necessary in the affairs of this world, but it is also necessary that there be a people who are not part of that strife.

Some of us enjoy politics as a spectator sport. I believe it is useful to be informed of what is going on in the world. But when we start cheering for one side and express derogatory opinions about politicians on the other side, we appear to be of the world.

If we take on the prejudices of the part of the world we live in and feel and express our antipathy and mistrust of people who are different from us in ethnic origin, social status, language or skin colour, we make ourselves appear to be of the world. Does it make any sense to send missionaries around the world to people such as this, but not want to have anything to do with them when they show up in our neighbourhood?

There is no respect of persons with God. If we are to be as He is in this world, that is, to be in the world but not of the world, we must not look on people and events after the outward appearance, but seek to see hem as He sees them.

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