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How to be a disciple in the world

00:00 / 20:15

12 May 2024

The Seventh Sunday of Easter

John 17:6-19

A Hidden Life

Story of Franz Jägerstätter, Austrian farmer, refused to swear allegiance to Hitler, “The Antichrist”, arrested and put to death. Terence Malick film depicts agonising journey from idyllic hillside village and life with wife and three daughters, to arrest, imprisonment, and death. Jägerstätter’s stand Christian in nature. Recognised as a martyr and beatified in 2007.

At one point in film, he is told, “Sign and you will go free.” He answers, “I am free already.” Free from participation in evil, free in his spirit to be united with Christ in his death.

A Dramatic Moment

-       Gospel reading introduces a dramatic moment: Christ entrusts his disciples into the care of the Father.

-       We overhear his prayer:

o   “I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world…I have given them the words you gave me…I kept them in your name…I have guarded them.”

o   But now: “I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you.” John 17:11

o   And so: “I am praying for them.” John 17:9

-       Reflect upon Christ’s love for his disciples.

o   Moment of great sorrow and anxiety as when a child leaves home.

o   Christ too experiences something of that sorrow and concern.

-       What does Christ pray for his disciples?

o   “Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one even as we are one.” John 17:11

o   “I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one.” John 17:15

o   “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” John 17:17

-       Christ’s description of predicament of disciples:

-       Left in the world, but not of the world: “They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.” John 17:14

-       But sent to the world: “As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.” John 17:18

-       Concisely: they will be in (but not of) the world and sent to the world in love.

-       This is the attitude of Christians towards the world: in it, not of it, sent to it, in love for it.

In (but not of) the World

Disciples are physically in the world, but we have a different value system to the world. Therefore the world may hate and reject us.

“I have given them your word, and the world has hated them.” John 17:14

The “word” of the Father a sign of ultimate authority in Christian life. Not the spirit of the age. Not the political powers, but God.

The world may hate this because it undermines the worldly and spiritual powers.

Franz Jägerstätter incurred wrath of the world because he refused allegiance to its authority.


A Hidden life an extreme example. What about our world? What makes us different? An accessible example:

What we do on Sunday. Sunday a special day of rest and worship, the Sabbath Day. Not a day for work or consumerism. A creation ordinance, linked to God’s rest on seventh day of creation, given in the Ten Commandments: “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labour, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work.” Exodus 20:8-10 and following. Sabbath Day in Christian dispensation transferred to the day of Resurrection: Sunday.

A quaint notion? Yet observed even in this nation seriously till The Sunday Trading Act of 1993, allowing widespread trading.

Principle depicted in Chariots of Fire (1981): Eric Liddell, refused to run 100m heat on Sunday after years of training for the 1924 Olympics..

Now Sunday just another day for the world: business, trade, activities, ignoring of worship of God.

What ought we to do? Be different. Be distinct. Resist conformity to the world.

Many other examples could be given.

Challenge: “Do not be conformed (suskematizo) to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind.” Romans 12:2

To the World in love

Complexity to situation:

“As you sent me into the world, so I send them into the world.” John 17:18

Though we are of a different spirit, we are nevertheless sent to the world.

Why? Because God loves the world (John 3:16) and intends to save it through Christ.

Christ came to call his disciples out of the world (John 17:6). His disciples are sent into the world to do the same.

Example of angry man. Judgement and anger can give way to humility and love in imitation of Christ.


Humility – We were saved out of the world by Christ. Not better than the world.

Salvation a gift of God, that nobody may boast.

Love – Called not to hate the world or consider ourselves superior, but to love the world and desire it to know salvation in Christ.

Offer the gift you have been given.

Central Question:

Getting balance right: not conformed to the world, but also not hating the world. Different to the world and yet still loving the people in it.

Think about it: Which are you more tempted towards?

Do you conform to the world? Adopting its ways to the detriment of the Word of God.

Perhaps not. Maybe you are angry with the world, tired of it, apathetic towards it? Do you love the world and people in it? Your friends, family, who do not know Christ. Invite them. Offer them again the gift you have been given.

Friends, keep yourselves from the illegitimate powers that arrogate God’s authority. Keep yourself in his word and under his authority. But continue to love the world and offer it salvation through Christ.


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