A: This verse is a popular source of confusion. It is often quoted and attributed to Jesus as a path of living, but it doesn't exist in the way we tend to use it . Taken in its proper context [John 17], Jesus was praying to God on behalf of his Disciples. It was just before his betrayal and arrest. He was asking God to protect them because they were being rejected just as he was. They were, like Jesus, no longer part of the mainstream community. Here is an excerpt: "I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one. They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world." [vs 14-16; NRSV]
There is another verse, however, that probably better addresses the question more directly. In Romans 12 Paul writes, "Do not be conformed to this world,but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect." [vs.2; NRSV] The intention of this verse mirrors Unity's 3rd Basic Principle: We create our life experiences through our way of thinking. In other words, the way we experience anything (or anyone) is entirely determined by what we think and believe about it. Some see this as both good and bad news, but we see it as only fantastic news! We can change our mind, and our thinking, at any moment.
To be sure, this sounds easier said than done, and it probably is for many of us. We develop attachments to things and people that are very real for us. We experience transcendent joys and traumatic sorrows in our lifetime...sometimes in the same day! And it is these experiences that call forth the highest and best of us from the depth of our Spirit. Therein lies the paradox of our journey: The fullness of our human experience allows us to experience the fullness of our spiritual essence.
The question asks about "balance", which implies some of everything, one at a time. Another word that might add clarity is "Integrate", which implies a dynamic synergistic experience of everything. Integration asks us to realize that our world and life experiences are not only opportunities for spiritual experiences, but are the very spiritual experiences we seek. They are no longer "challenges" but the path to our deeper selves. Another word is "Center", which reminds us to become aware of where we place our attention.
Author, poet, and philosopher Mark Nepo says that, "When pain comes, enlarge our sense of things. It won't take away the pain, but it might right-size it." We can't avoid the world, but by Integrating and Centering, we can put things in proper perspective. If we believe there is One Power and One Presence, that there is only God, then that is us and also the world.