There’s a Biblical quote that I love in which Jesus says of his disciples that, “they are not of this world. Just as I am not of this world.”(John 17:16)
We often hear this translated into the phrase “in the world but not of the world.” Many other religions express similar ideas as well. I’ve been thinking about what this means for many years, and have come to the conclusion that if we can understand this phrase we will know our highest purpose—we will know why we are here.
What does it mean to be “in this world but not of this world”? We all find ourselves here, in this world. With all my heart I want to believe that it is a perfect world, full of goodness and love, but unfortunately, too often, it seems to me to be quite the opposite.
There are so many things in our world that seem more representative of darkness and even evil. When we watch the news, or even walk through less privileged parts of our own towns and cities, this world can be disturbing and frightening, to say the least. But what I realized is that if we are not “of this world,” then we have the power to do something about those things in this world that are disturbing to us. We’re not condemned to be a continuation of all the world’s problems! This is what I believe Jesus was telling his disciples in that quote: We are here to bring goodness, light, and love into this world wherever we find the opposite.
How’s that for a powerful purpose?
So, how do we do it? Often, the problems in our world can seem hopeless and overwhelming. But actually, what you can do is very simple. Love and serve your neighbor! Look for ways you can give and contribute to others, rather than being overly concerned with your own wants and needs. Try it and see—it feels really good! In fact, I’ll offer a word of caution from my own experience: a life of love and service is very addictive. Since I discovered, through a painful personal loss, that the secret to happiness is giving, I have found myself unable to stop. (You can read more about my journey from a life of selfishness and confusion to a life of love and service in my recently published book Love Unfiltered.)
I offer you these reflections in the spirit of love and service,