This piece was originally published at The Christian Post on July 30, 2012.
Much of my work revolves around the themes of diplomacy and advocacy. I sum these up with the term “ambassadorship.” In this series of posts titled “WANTED: Christian Ambassadors, not Tourists,” I am unpacking what it means to be an ambassador for Christ.
As missional witnesses, we are called to be ambassadors for Christ, not tourists.
What do you think of when you think of American tourists? Not good, I bet. American tourists are often called “ugly Americans.” They come across as dopes to many people in other cultures, not good diplomats for America. Tourists are often loud and illiterate in the tongue of another land. Good ambassadors listen, are soft-spoken, and literate linguistically and culturally.
This point on being loud and illiterate reminds me of what a friend from England said to me about many English tourists. If tourists from England ask for a cup of coffee in English in places like Spain, and if the waiter doesn’t understand them, many such tourists don’t ask in Spanish. Instead, they just say it louder. This is a real problem with many tourists from England and America, and for anyone else whose mother tongue is English. While it is not necessary for tourists to become fluent in the languages of their hosts’ countries, it is necessary that native speakers of English not demand that those hosts speak English. Unfortunately, we who are Americans and English often expect everyone to learn our “universal” language and for them to speak our language even in their own land. Good ambassadors learn the language of the people in whose land they live. They learn the language linguistically and culturally, both verbally and non-verbally.