John 17:8-9
Jesus said: “I pray for them. I do not pray for the world but for the ones you have given me, because they are yours…”
Did Jesus abandon the world at this point? He says he is not praying for the world. A few verses beyond this reading, he mentions that he is praying for us who will learn of him through his disciples. But he seems to be acknowledging that the world is not going to accept him fully.
That seems to be evident in our own society. There are so many that seem not to want to believe in the truth of the gospel. Yet, I read an article this week that was a summary of an atheist’ s book who wrote that the world cannot survive without Christianity.
I know it sounds strange! But his point in his book is that because of the morality that Christianity presented to the Western world, Western society became good.
But if this continues to fail, if people continue to reject Christianity, if people continue to make up their own rules that please themselves… this author issues a dire warning: our society will self-destruct.
Why is this important? Jesus has already said he is not praying for the world. Why should we worry about it? The answer to that is really very simple: we are supposed to be making this world holy. Jesus’ prayer for us is that we be the instruments of holiness that will transform the world.
However, Jesus recognizes that we will not be entirely successful! The reason for our failures is not because we are failures. The reason for our failures is that we are fighting an enemy that is very hard to defeat! That enemy of course is Satan. Jesus defeated him by his death and resurrection. We can only expect to do the same – by the same means Jesus used. And that is why Jesus prays for us, and not the world.
Jesus’ prayers for the church are that we remain in him, that we remain connected to the Father through the Holy Spirit. I believe this is why he does not pray for the whole world. Because not all of the world wants to remain connected to God. There are far too many people – even one is too many – that prefer to make all their own rules.
This is what the atheist that I mentioned above was talking about. It is unfortunate that men like this cannot get past their own theological prejudices, and come to a Christian faith. But it is interesting to note that they see how important a strong Christian faith in society is.
Here, on this Memorial Day Weekend, when we remember those who have chosen to die for the sake of this country, their family, and their faith, we need to remember that Jesus prayed – for us. It is why the church insists now, during the words of consecration, that the priests say Jesus blood was shed for the many, and not for all.
We should be praying for the world and its conversion. We are not to abandon the world. But it is also important that we understand the perspective of Jesus: parts of this world will never come to terms with who God is. And this will mean their destruction and condemnation.
On Memorial Day Weekend, we remember those who have died trying to maintain the freedom that Christianity helped to install. We remember the tyrannies that caused the wars that were against true Christian freedom. Please understand.
I am not trying to make the history of the United States and its wars into some sort of Christian history. But I do understand that the call to freedom, the torch of freedom, that the United States has carried throughout its existence began with a dream that was dreamed in a Christian mindset.
Is this exactly what Jesus was praying for? No. But the freedom that sprang from the heart of Christianity, from the mind of Christianity, can only live in a strong Christian country. And this, in part, is what Jesus was praying for.
The other part of what he was praying for is that we remain safe in the hands of the Father; that we be guided by the Holy Spirit; that we come safely into his kingdom where he reigns as the Eternal King. Indeed, this is the most important part. Jesus was not praying for our success here on earth. He was praying for our success in attaining heaven.
As we remember those who sacrificed their lives, and those who were, and are, willing to do so, for the sake of our freedoms, we pray especially that they be among the number that Jesus prayed for in our gospel today.