This piece was originally published at The Christian Post on August 13, 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, part 3, and part 4.
I have spoken of various contrasting dynamics between tourists and ambassadors in the four previous posts. I won’t repeat all that has been written to this point, but I believe that this fifth one builds on all of them. As those who are good listeners and literate in various ways, as those who are invested for the long haul as invited guests, and as those who advocate with those who pursue justice wherever they may be found, good ambassadors also seek to be collaborative in pursuit of reconciliation in “foreign” lands here and abroad.
In contrast, American tourists often confront, when they don’t get their way. They may even bully and threaten their hosts and even demand that their government send in the troops until their justice and their rights prevails. Some tourists may simply settle for taking their souvenirs and money home, never to return. Good ambassadors seek to collaborate in such a manner that everyone wins and shalom and justice prevail to the benefit of all. Open and honest and collaborative diplomacy is a rare art form.
What is your own approach to resolving conflict? What is mine? How we deal with one another in the body of Christ often spills over into how we deal with others in our work of ambassadorship here and abroad. If we cannot learn to get along as brothers and sisters in Christ in healthy and whole terms, how will we ever hope to model a spirit and practice of reconciliation as ambassadors for Christ outside the sphere of the church?
Some settle for confrontation at all costs inside the church and outside as well: they love a good fight. Others will retreat at the first sign of tension. Still others get passive aggressive, while still others will compromise if given half a chance. But collaboration is the ideal form of reconciliation: everyone wins and no one loses. Of course, no one really wins if injustice prevails; so, I am not talking about settling for second best. While we cannot always attain ideal conditions in a fallen and broken world, we should strive for reconciliation that builds beloved community and that includes everyone at the table.
As good will ambassadors for Christ, we need to be willing to do the heavy lifting of bringing people together from opposing sides. We have to be on guard against taking sides. Our work is to side with justice, however difficult it might be. But that does not mean we stay on one side of the table or on one side of the divide. The table I have in mind is round. There is no place for posturing. And although our head is Christ, you will find him washing feet; you will find him eating with those he knows will betray and deny him (See John 13). For them, he will die, and for the rest of us, too. So, while there is certainly confronting to do, and no place to compromise on justice and truth, I must ever be willing to bear the burden of dying to my rights and for our rights alone.
In view of Jesus and his apostolic ambassador Paul, we must not demand from others special privileges or the divine right of kings because we belong to Christ. We are called to be citizens and ambassadors in like manner to him. As good will ambassadors of Christ’s kingdom justice, remember our slave king’s cross; remember Paul’s chains (Ephesians 6:20; Colossians 4:18). Tourists and even the best of ambassadors are called not to leave home without their American Express, passports, and visas. As Christian ambassadors, don’t leave home without Christ’s cross or Paul’s chains.
Continue reading part 6.