A story is told of a Norwegian ambassador to America who was new, inexperienced, and had little time to learn American culture or language. Sometime around November, a New York Times reporter called him and asked what he wanted for Christmas.
The ambassador, confused, replied that he couldn’t accept gifts. Days later, the reporter called and asked him again what he wanted for Christmas. The Norwegian ambassador, wanting to follow the law, again replied that accepting gifts could be seen as a bribe.
Again the reporter called and asked the diplomat what he wished for Christmas. Thinking perhaps he had misunderstood the reporter’s intentions, he replied, “Okay! A fruit basket! Surely a fruit basket can’t be seen as a bribe.”
A few days later the headline in the New York Times read:
What Foreign Ambassadors Here Want for Christmas:
Great Britain: Good economic welfare
Western Germany: Even better east-west relations
France: Free trade between Europe and USA
Switzerland: Better European cooperation and better US relations
Sweden: End of starvation in the third world
Belgium: Better environmental care
Norway: A fruit bowl
How to Be an Ambassador for Christ
Do you know what it means to be an ambassador for Christ? I mean, I generally understand what an ambassador is–I do watch Madam Secretary–but I never really thought about the role and responsibility of an ambassador and what that means to us as Christians.
Ambassador: (noun) an accredited diplomat sent by a country as its official representative to a foreign country; a person who acts as a representative or promoter of a specified activity
An ambassador is a public servant appointed by the president. His mission is to represent the interests of his country to another nation while living there. He is a diplomat sent in an official capacity with a particular assignment: to communicate with members of the host nation in a way that maintains peace and cooperation.
The message of the ambassador is not his own–he only speaks in support of the country and leader that he represents. His message must always align with the laws and resolutions of his mother country and promote the national interests of his country.
The ambassador’s role is that of a diplomat, managing relationships in a sensitive and effective way, understanding the history, language, and customs of the people to which he has been sent. He welcomes other officials, hosts them in his home, and seeks to smooth relationships so that the message and mission of his native land are represented.
In the New Testament, Paul refers to us as Christ’s ambassadors.
“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 men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God himself were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”2 Corinthians 5:18-21, NIV
If we are Christ’s ambassadors, how does that change the way we view our role in the world?
As Christians, this world is not our home. We are temporary residents here, but we are citizens of heaven (Hebrews 13:14, 1 Peter 1:1, 2:11). We have been chosen and appointed by God to serve Him in ministry. (Ambassadors used to be called ministers.) We have a particular assignment, and we have been authorized to carry it out.
“‘All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.'”Matthew 28:18b-20a
Just as an ambassador’s message is to represent his president and his country’s best interests, we are called to represent God and His Word to the world. We have been given the “ministry of reconciliation.”
reconcile: (verb) to restore friendly relations between
Because of the sin nature of man, we are all enemies of God without Christ. Through Jesus’ death on the cross, we are restored to the God who created us.
“Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation.”Colossians 1:21-22
Our message to our host nation (this world) is to be reconciled to God.
An ambassador’s role is to understand the people and culture in his host country so that he can represent his nation with tact and diplomacy.
diplomacy: (noun) the art of dealing with people in a sensitive and effective way
Our role as ambassadors is to welcome others, to be hospitable, and to communicate well so that relationships are not strained and misunderstandings are avoided. We never compromise the Lord’s authority or Word, but we seek to communicate truth with grace.
Our message won’t always be accepted. In fact, it could cause persecution. Just as some ambassadors serve in dangerous locations, we may sometimes face adversity for standing true to our mission.
“Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.”Ephesians 6:19-20
Even Paul faced chains for carrying out his mission, but he continued to represent his home. He knew he was secure in Christ.
You see, ambassadors have a secure place within the embassy. The embassy is the headquarters for an ambassador. It belongs to the home country.
Within the embassy, an ambassador is safe from the threat of those around him. The host nation is not allowed to enter the embassy, and an attack on an embassy is seen as an attack on the land to which it belongs.
We have a safe place within the kingdom of God. The enemy may be able to chain us; he may even be able to attack us, but he cannot destroy us, because we don’t belong to his world.
So, your mission–should you choose to accept it–is to carry out your duties as an ambassador. You have been chosen, authorized, and sent to the world with the ministry of reconciliation, imploring others to accept the gift of God. It’s not a bribe–but it may contain some fruit!
I’m praying for you, that God will empower you to “fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel” as you seek to understand this culture and communicate God’s truth. May we never lose sight of our responsibility to represent His kingdom.
After all, we’re just foreign diplomats, carrying out our mission until God calls us home.