Ambassadors for Christ
The Apostle Paul wrote to the first followers of Christ: "Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God." 2 Corinthians 5:20
We are His ambassadors to a world that is not our home. We represent another King and another Kingdom. We are going to the Kingdom of the Earth on behalf of the Kingdom of Heaven, and things of eternal import are at stake.
We represent Jesus whether we like it or not. We donít stop representing Christ Ö ever. We will be an ambassador Ė for better or worse. People canít see God, but they can see us. They can be drawn to or pushed away from the One we represent based on how we, as ambassadors, represent God. Here is the broader context for Paulís message about ambassadorship: " Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting peopleís sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christís ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christís behalf: Be reconciled to God." (2 Corinthians 5:17- 21).
First, an Ambassador must have some Basic Knowledge
When then Vice-President Cheney was in town to campaign a number of years ago, I went outside the civic center to meet the picketers. I talked to a guy holding a sign showing his opposition to multi-national corporations, and two girls holding a sign that said, "I hate Bush." None of them could give me an articulate reason for their protest.
An ambassador for Christ must seek to know the character, mind, and purposes of Christ. This means being equipped with not just the knowledge, but the experience and wisdom that comes from understanding God, His Word, His world, and His people.
Second, this Knowledge must be Deployed in a Skillful Way with Wisdom and Persuasiveness
It isnít possible to never give offense as an ambassador for Christ, because the message can be offensive (Luke. 6:26; 1 Corinthians 1:23). But we must do our best to "put no stumbling block in anyoneís path, so that our ministry will not be discredited. Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every wayÖ" (2 Corinthians 6:3).
The message is difficult enough without us giving people additional reason to turn away. Paul notes all the ways in which he "becomes all things to all people" in 1 Corinthians 9:19-22 "so that I may save some . . . " Itís not good when the biggest barrier for people to overcome is Christians. You may have heard this famous quote from Ghandi: "I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ."
We must pray for the wisdom to know how to connect and genuinely enter into the lives of those around us without compromising our morality or faith. Itís part of being "in the world but not of it" (John 17:15-16). We "put no stumbling block" in the way. We "commend ourselves in every way." We "become all things to all people."
The Third Aspect of a Good Ambassador is Character
Because ambassadors bring themselves along in everything they do, their presence can either make or break the message. Paul tells us how we can embrace the transformative grace with which God heals us in such a way that we come effective ambassadors: "in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with the armor of righteousnessÖ" (2 Corinthians 6:5-7).
"Purity" is used here probably to refer to sexual purity, but has a broader meaning that encompasses all of life. We are called to be pure from the inside out Ė morally clean, able to live without fear of what others may find out about us.
"Understanding" refers to an in-depth understanding of the Christian world view (2 Timothy. 2:15). Itís first-hand experience; applied knowledge. It doesnít mean we have to have all the answers, but we are constantly seeking in some way to understand our faith and our experience better.
"Patience" is staying power; being long tempered instead of short tempered. We can listen to or see things hostile to our faith without getting immediately angry and defensive. If someone says, "I think Christianity is stupid," and starts to rant, can we listen patiently, trying to understand what they are saying?
"Kindness" refers to cultivating a high view of other people and treating them with respect. Itís meeting real needs Ė not just spiritual, but relational, financial, emotional. Itís treating people in Godís image as if they actually bore Godís image.
We need to relate to others with patience and kindness. Itís how God treats us, and itís intended to lead us to repentance (Romans 2:4).
"Truthful Speech" does not compromise on reality, and we must be boldly proclaimed even if it is offensive. God does not want anyone to perish (2 Peter 3:9), and neither should we. But our bold proclamations should be kind. Treating people badly does not serve the purpose of spreading the good news. Our goal is to see them saved, not shamed.
"The Holy Spirit" gives us the power of God to take Godís word, our words, our lives, and point people toward Christ. We donít have to force the issue. We "plant and water" (1 Corinthians 3:7), but God brings the harvest.
Be Patient. Be Present. Be Faithful.
A lot can be accomplished with sincere love, and with the power and protection of the righteousness of God.