“I’m not asking you to take them out of the world, but to keep them safe from the evil one. They do not belong to this world any more than I do. Make them holy by your truth; teach them your word, which is truth. Just as you sent me into the world, I am sending them into the world.” (John 17:15-18 NLT)
Here is where we get the infamous “in the world but not of it” slogan of Christianity. I tend to get frustrated with how many people seem to leave off, either discretely or not, the first part of the phrase, leaving just that we are not to be of this world: we are to be aliens, focused only on the heavenly life to come. This is obviously partially true, but our Kingdom purpose and mission are severely stifled when we fail to focus on the equally important aspect of being in the world.
Jesus prays to the Father regarding His disciples who turned the world upside down in a lasting way and willingly gave their lives, some multiple times, for the sake of their kingdom purpose and mission: “Just as you sent me into the world, I am sending them into the world” (vs. 18).
It’s not even a matter of us already being here. It’s a matter of us being sent by Jesus Himself on a mission. We choose to accept that mission and live a sent life in this world. It’s more than just a passive life in this world.
Even more so, it’s a matter of imitating Christ in this. In this case, “just as” insinuates specifically what Paul clearly explains in general terms in Ephesians: “Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do…. (Ephesians 5:1)” Here, Jesus makes a statement to His Father God that He will send disciples into the world on the same mission with the same purpose as His own sent life in this world.
What a glorious call. What a glorious life. To live in the footsteps of Jesus following His example and pursuing His same mission.
Glorious life. Glorious love. Glorious grace.