Growing up, we always had a dog as part of our family.
And, if you have pets, whether a dog or cat, sometimes you have to deal with fleas and ticks.
For us, the usual way to deal with fleas was to comb through the dog’s fur and catch every flea you could find. (If you’ve ever tried this, you know it doesn’t really work very well.)
Then came the invention of the flea collar.
Somehow, some way, it works. Put the collar around the dog’s neck, and voilà! In just a short period of time, no more fleas or ticks. They were gone. And they’d stay away for months!
How did they know there was a flea collar around the dog’s neck?
I didn’t explain it to them: “Listen here fleas; I just put a special magical collar on the dog, so you better get off him.”
Yet somehow all the fleas – including the last flea on the tip of the tail – knew that there was a flea collar on the dog, and all jumped off or died.
But how did they know? How does a flea collar work?
Well, it turns out that there is a powder/medication on the flea collar. When the dog moves, the collar releases this powder/medication on the dog’s skin, which seeps into the dog’s skin and is absorbed into its bloodstream. The flea bites the dog and is poisoned as a result and dies. The dog’s blood carries the flea poison to every inch of the dog – even the very end of its tail. So even when the flea on the end of the tail bites the dog, it dies.
What does a flea collar have to do with Christianity?
This really helped me to understand John 17, because that’s what Jesus was praying for – not that we would all wear flea collars.
My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.
[John 17: 15-18]
He was praying, “Father, I do not pray that you take them out of this flea infested world. Instead, put them right in the middle of the world.”
Jesus wasn’t praying for them to be excused from the world, but for God to do something to them. “Protect them.” But how?
In verse 17, Jesus said ‘Sanctify them by your truth. Your word is truth.”
Jesus knew the truth would build an immune system within them to resist the evil of the world.
When truth became a part of their lives, they would move through the world (be in the world), but not affected by the world. Instead, they would affect the world, impact it, and even change it.
God’s word – the truth – is our flea collar in this flea infested world, so that we can be in the world, engaging this sinful, lost world without being intimidated, infested or inactivated by it.
“Sanctify” means to set apart from the rest, or to declare as holy, pure, clean, redeemed.
Jesus prayed that the truth would be in the disciples’ lives (and in our lives) as an immune system so that they (and we) would not be affected by it, but rather would affect, change and transform it.
God’s word – truth in our lives is our immunization – our protection against the sinful world we are to be in every day.
Without truth as our immunity, we cannot be salt or light to change the world.
With the word of truth in us, we are not just good people doing good things. NO! We are agents of change. God is engaging a lost world through us.
You, individually, and we as the body of Christ, are the instruments through which God wants to transform lives and entire cities.
In the world, but not of the world. How is this possible? Flea collar Christianity – God’s word in our lives!
Tom Caswell - Evangelist