Encounter: Grab a piece of paper and a pen or pencil. As you read slowly through John 17:13-19 a couple times, I invite you to draw or sketch an image that captures how this passage, this prayer right from Jesus, resonates with you. If you’re less inclined towards creativity, I invite you to hand copy this passage.
When Jesus prays to God the Father concerning the relationship between the world (culture, social/family systems, “successful” lifestyles, etc.), Himself, and all those who believe in Him, it is clear there is some discord between the world and God and His children. While the world shows strong distaste towards God and His children, interestingly, Jesus doesn’t pray that God would take His children out of the world, but rather that He’d protect them as He sends them out into the world.
It probably wouldn’t take any of us too long to identify this discord in action. As I think about this dynamic between the world and God’s children, two instances come to mind. The first is of a woman, we’ll call her Natalie. Natalie, like all of us, is told through the messages she hears on TV, social media, and the radio, that happiness and fulfillment is our choice, that whatever feels good and right for us is what we should do. Unfortunately, after chasing happiness in her relationships with men, Natalie finds she has spiraled into a deep depression that’s not just based on her lack of happiness and fulfillment, but is also grounded in a complete loss of identity and confidence in who she is as an individual. The second individual is a man, let’s call him Michael. Michael’s past is somewhat unknown other than the created stories that are now circulated about him. Whatever happened to Michael we may never know, but he now spends his days roaming around town asking for food and money and is always found with either a tall boy or malt liquor in his hand. Because of his drunken roaming, Michael is known only as the local “drunk” to most who see him.
These instances show just how dangerous the world’s created narratives about us can be. These false narratives eat away at our true identity in Christ and leave us wounded to the point where we believe the false narratives must be true.
Reflect: Perhaps you don’t personally face the hatred of the world in the way Natalie and Michael do, but take a moment to think about the moments throughout your day when your confidence is shaken, when your worth or value is challenged. What is it that shakes your confidence or pushes against your self worth and value?
This Sunday we’ll look into the narratives of Natalie and Michael some more. Fortunately, the false narratives of their lives were challenged as the love of Christ reclaimed their identities, but it took the influence of outside voices to push through the damage of the false narratives.
Encourage: Think about two or three people in your life (close friends, family, coworkers, perhaps just acquaintances). Now, consider two or three of their “heart” qualities; qualities that might make you think, “they’ve just got a good heart.” Reach out to those people just to let them know you’re thinking of them, then share what you’ve identified as their best qualities.
Gather: As you connect with your Life Group or Sunday Study Group identify some of the challenges you’ve faced as a child of God in the midst of the world’s hatred. Take time to share at least one of the “heart” qualities of the person on your right. Close your time together by praying for the challenges identified, and having one person re-read Jesus’s prayer in John 17:14-19. As you finish up, turn to the person on your left and your right and say, “Jesus sends you into the world!”