This piece was originally published at The Christian Post on August 9, 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. If you’re just jumping in, begin by reading part 1, part 2, and part 3.
So far in these posts, I have spoken of how tourists are often viewed as loud and illiterate. Tourists are also in places for relatively short periods of time (there is nothing wrong with short visits as such, but it depends on how tourists engage and how they leave the place when they depart). Moreover, tourists are often intrusive, flaunting their money and influence. In contrast, good ambassadors are soft-spoken and literate linguistically and culturally. Good ambassadors also stay as long as possible in the lands where they serve and seek to get to know the people in all their diversity and complexity. Moreover, good ambassadors are very diplomatic, as they also present themselves authentically as gracious guests.
As gracious guests, ambassadors are not known for having complaining spirits. They do not complain and whine, as many tourists do. They advocate. They advocate on behalf of their kingdoms’ just values. Hopefully, the kingdoms they serve actually practice what they preach. Good ambassadors seek to model justice in all their dealings as invited guests. But how do they advocate in such ways that guard against the sense that they are preaching at those among whom they live?As invited guests, good will ambassadors wait for opportunities afforded them to advocate on behalf of their kingdoms’ rightful concerns. They don’t get preachy whereby they stand over against those they live among in foreign lands. They are not judgmental. Good ambassadors earn the right to speak as invited guests.
There is such a marked difference when we Christians intrude with our justice packages rather than wait to be invited to partner with the people in the lands we seek to enter. When I have been invited into a community, I make sure those present know that I am a guest of this or that leader respected in the community. I make sure that I follow my host’s lead rather than act as if I am in charge. Walls come down and bridges are built as we seek to work together in search of shalom.
As ambassadors of Christ, we need to realize that God is at work among people in distant lands long before we appear. Jesus is bringing us to them. We are not bringing him to them. We need to be looking for the people of peace whom Jesus has prepared for us, just as he prepares us for them. When we advocate, we advocate with them rather than simply for them, for we realize that Jesus alone is Messiah and the ultimate bridge of reconciliation and redemption.
We learn from him and from them what the real issues are about which to advocate together. Through the process, our own hearts are transformed and we become deeply invested. Their pains become our pains. Their longings become our longings. If they go down, we go down with them. As ambassadors for Jesus, we realize that we cannot simply serve as good will ambassadors in foreign lands for our governments back home. In view of Jesus and the people among whom we live, we may even come to challenge prophetically our countries of origin to which we still belong to practice what we are called as ambassadors to preach. There is no placating when we are advocating as Christ’s ambassadors, just as there is no judgmental preaching. As his ambassadors, we are willing to lay down our lives for those he loves and become what we proclaim: ambassadors of Jesus’ jubilee justice in our hometowns and in whatever other land we live (Luke 4:16-30).