Would the people who know you best consider you a Christian tourist or an ambassador for the kingdom of God?
I threw this question out to a group of leadership men one morning in a monthly discussion group I lead called 1st Tuesdays. I could tell that initially most of the men put themselves in the Christian ambassador column. However as the conversation went on and we began to explore the differences between a Christian ambassador and Christian tourists, several of the men grew more quiet and thoughtful. It’s also been a word picture I’ve used with our own children when in Washington D.C. or vacation outside the U.S. to help them understand better the missions of kingdom people.
“We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.” II Cor. 5:20a
Of course, everyone pressed me to define the difference between the two, so I told them and explained it this way. An Ambassador
The two primary tasks of an ambassador are these; to advance the interests of the country that sent him/her and conduct themselves personally in such a way as to be a credit to their country. Ambassadors know they are aliens in a foreign land, and they’re only on temporary assignment and in many cases their assigned country is dangerous.
So an ambassador from the U.S. to Saudi Arabia for example, wakes up every morning knowing that his primary purpose that day and every day is to carry out the mission assignment to him, until his government recalls him. And, of course, there are opportunities to relax, see the sights and enjoy the culture, but those are secondary to his mission.
A few blocks away a tourist from the U.S. is waking up and his mission is to enjoy himself. Like the ambassador, he’s patriotic, thankful for being an American and all the rights that brings him. However, he plans his day around good food, shopping, sightseeing and in general killing time pleasantly.
So, we have two Americans temporarily living in the same country and city, but with two completely different purposes for being there. So what follows is the application for Christians.
A Christian Ambassador
The primary purpose for the life of a Christian ambassador and all true followers of Jesus is to love God, love others and advance the interests of the kingdom of God. Everything else is secondary.
Before secular ambassadors are sent out, I’m told they receive extensive training and are given policy books on everything from trade to defense and they are instructed to know every policy thoroughly. Their opinions really don’t matter. The only latitude they’re given is in how these policies get carried out, but even then how ambassadors conduct themselves is a reflection on the nation he represents.
Similarly, Christian ambassadors serve best having a good working knowledge of God’s policy book, the Bible. Their goal is to know it so well that when they speak, they are confident they’re faithfully representing the policies and the interests of the kingdom of God and doing so with such grace that their words and actions are received as from Jesus himself.
A day in the life of a Christian ambassador
What might a typical day look like for a Christian ambassador? It means getting up each day intent on being good and doing good to everyone. And that involves going to the policy book often and talking to God seeking wisdom and direction daily before you begin your mission that day.
Then perhaps your day begins with a 10 second rule prompting from God to say something kind to a step-father you’ve not yet grown to love – a refusal to make exaggerated claims about your company’s products or services – having a cup of coffee with a neighbor who’s made some sinful choices – speaking respectfully about and to a very controlling parent – refusing to laugh at a filthy story or join in gossiping about another person and introducing a co-worker to the Jesus you love.
On a larger scale and often working with fellow ambassadors and even non-Christians, it means that where there are unjust laws, we work to have them repealed. Where there is conflict, we attempt to be peacemakers. Where there is poverty we work with others to end it wherever and whenever we can. When we see racial injustice we speak out and act against it. When pollution threatens a stream we work to stop it and clean it up. An ambassador acts with virtue and integrity, constantly teaching their children and others to love God, love the Bible and love life – everyone’s.
A Christian ambassador is intentionally representing God himself in your world – bringing the goodness of God into ordinary life. It’s a proactive lifestyle of love so compelling and attractive that people who don’t know Jesus will be drawn to you and therefore to him.
Finally, it means living an examined life by asking questions like these; how consumed am I with my own comfort, leisure, hobbies and stuff? Are they really energy and resource leaks distracting me from my missions? Like weights in a backpack, our need for these things can hinder, even cripple our effectiveness as an ambassador. Do I have any other gods? “Your God” said Martin Luther, “is whatever your heart clings to.”
There’s a deadly myth prevalent today that there are two classes of those who are truly “born again” – the serious followers of Jesus and the rest of those who call themselves Christians, but are really more like Christian tourists. Unlike ambassadors, it’s the unspoken goal of Christian tourists to live this life for themselves and their family – preferring to be served, than serve.
Christian tourists may attend evangelical churches, be theologically correct, “believe in Jesus”, listen to Christian radio, serve in their church or on ministry boards, and even send their children to Christian schools. They may be forever learning about Jesus, but never fully committing themselves to a life of loving and serving him and others. Outside of their “religious culture” the unspoken goal of their lives is to kill time pleasantly. The question is this; “Is a Christian tourist really a Christian at all?” You may want to read my September 12, 2011 blog, Faith and Fire, for my thoughts on that question. www.claredegraaf.com/2011/09/12/faith-and-fire-2/
Here’s the really scary part. Most of you reading this probably agree that most other Christians are tourists, but you, yourself are not. Are you sure?
Ultimately, the litmus test of a true ambassador of Christ is this: Do the people who know you best have a deeper respect for the love, wisdom, and glory of God because of what they see in your life? Are they asking you to introduce them to Jesus? Are they coming to you for advice or mentoring? Does your life make God look good?
Question: Do you think Christians who live like tourists are truly born again?
Following Jesus in Real Life