Jesus prays for his disciples’ protection in a hostile world. In this prayer, he confirms that there are some people who are simply more vulnerable than others. Not because of any intrinsic deficiency, but because they are hated. Meaning that people consider them expendable, or even believe that the world would be better off without them.
Jesus could attest to this hatred because he experienced it firsthand. Powerful people hated him because of his refusal to conform to societal “norms”, and his audacity to challenge those so-called norms. This hatred was not a figment of the collective imagination of a paranoid people; it was real! So real, in fact, that within a day’s time, Jesus would be arrested, put on trial, falsely convicted and executed…because the world hated him.
The hatred was real, and so, earnest is the petition that Jesus makes on his disciples’ behalf. Notice that Jesus does not pray that the disciples conform to the world so that the world might be more accepting of them. Nor does Jesus pray that God “take them out of the world” either physically or by participation in subcultures that permit them to escape the world instead of changing it. Instead Jesus prays, “protect them from evil”! The kind of evil that values some lives over others when “all are one in Christ (Gal 3:28).” The kind of evil that judges and condemns based on appearances when “the Lord looks at the heart (1 Sam 16:7).”
This kind of evil is still all too real, but I believe that Jesus is still praying—interceding on behalf of those the world hates. Let us join Jesus in prayer. And when we get up off of our knees, let’s stand together to protect the hated among us. Let’s stand in the face of evil, and stand in the name of Jesus!