Episode 1. First a Citizen, then an Ambassador
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Most of us are immersed in the cultures in which we live. And that’s as it should be. But there’s a risk for the person who believes in Jesus, in getting to thinking that they’re a local … a …
Most of us are immersed in the cultures in which we live. And that’s as it should be. But there’s a risk for the person who believes in Jesus, in getting to thinking that they’re a local … a citizen of this earth. They’re not – they’re a citizen of Heaven and what’s more, an Ambassador of Christ.
Right now and depending on how you count some of the smaller ones, there are just over 200 countries in this world. One source I read lists 223, another 192. So lets say there are around 200 countries.
Some of them are huge and powerful. China, the USA, some of the European countries and some of them are huge and relatively poor. India, although that’s a country on the move, Indonesia. Many of the countries are in that big middle ground. Medium size, medium wealth but little practical power on the world’s stage.
And then there are lots of tiny little countries, about 30, with a population under 100,000. The Marshall Islands, population 62,000. Nauru, 10,000. Right down to the smallest country in the world. Do you know what that is? It’s the Pitcairn Islands in the Pacific, population, well 50 is the official figure. Imagine one plane load of tourists could overwhelm the place and quadruple the population.
What a huge variation, China population 1.34 billion at one end of the scale right down to the Pitcairn Islands population 50 at the other end and everything you can imagine in between.
Now anyone who’s had brothers or sisters knows that siblings don’t always get on and the history of humanity is a history of wars, invasions, conquests, dominance, exploitation. In fact right now, this very moment there are 30 recognised wars going on around the world not to mention the other, quote “lower level conflicts”. So how do you manage all that? How do countries manage to get on?
Well hopefully these days most of the time when there’s a disagreement or an issue, instead of fighting wars as the first step in the process, countries use a thing called diplomacy. They have diplomats and so they use diplomatic channels to discuss and resolve most of the issues between them.
The head of the diplomatic mission is usually called The Ambassador. So in my country we have an American Ambassador or a Chinese Ambassador, an Indian Ambassador and so on. And here’s the thing, none of those people are Australians. The American Ambassador is American. The Chinese Ambassador is Chinese. The Indian Ambassador is as we would expect, Indian.
So, not only is the Ambassador a citizen of the country which he or she represents. They look like they come from that country, they talk like they come from that country because, you know what, they actually do come from that country.
Now all of that, I would hope, is pretty much blindingly glimpsingly obvious to all of us and the job of the Ambassador of each country is to be his or her country’s representative with a foreign government. The channel through which their country raises issues with other governments and vice versa.
Sometimes, many times, those are difficult issues. You can imagine, for instance, the exchanges that occur between Indian and Pakistani diplomats or, at times, between China and America on trade issues or between the various European countries with other countries in their union. Ambassadors are there to represent their country, the country of their citizenship in a foreign land. Now the Apostle Paul had this to say on this issue. Have a listen:
From now on therefore we regard no one from a human point of view even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view. We no longer know Him in that way. So if anyone is in Christ there is a new creation. Everything old has passed away, see everything has become new.
All this is from God who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and has given us the ministry of reconciliation. That is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them but entrusting the message of reconciliation to us.
So we are ambassadors for Christ. Since God is making His appeal through us, we entreat you on behalf of Christ. Be reconciled to God. For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.
It almost sounds as though Paul is saying, look, he’s not so much a Roman citizen, which he was, but he’s a citizen of God’s Kingdom sent to explain, to share God’s message of reconciliation and forgiveness into a foreign world.
We are ambassadors for Christ. (Writes Paul) Since God is making His appeal through us.
And in fact elsewhere Paul writes exactly that. Philippians chapter 3, verse 20:
Our citizenship is in heaven and it is from there that we’re expecting a saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ.
So there it is. Paul sees his role as being an ambassador of Christ, declaring the forgiveness that God has for each and every person on this planet if only we’ll put our faith in Jesus, His Son and the eternal and glorious reconciliation that we can have with God when we take that step. And that, see that’s simply carrying on what Jesus came to do. Jesus said, Mark chapter 1, verse 38. He said:
Let us go on to the neighbouring town so that I may proclaim the message there also for that is what I came out to do.
John chapter 18, verse 37:
Pilate asks Him, ‘are you a king?’ and Jesus answered, ‘you say that I am. For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth.
Jesus came to tell us the good news. In fact He came to be the good news. The Apostle Paul saw himself as an ambassador of that good news. Even to the point of being an ambassador in chains. Ephesians chapter 6, verse 19:
Pray for me also (writes Paul) so that when I speak a message may be given to me to make known, with boldness, the mystery of the Gospel for which I am an ambassador in chains.
My friend, Jesus came to be an ambassador, Paul came to be an ambassador. What did you come to do? Where is your citizenship? Are you a citizen of this world or are you an ambassador in a foreign land bringing the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Gospel of reconciliation with God through Jesus into a lost and hurting world?
My hunch is anyone, anyone who calls themselves a Christian, anyone who takes on themselves the name of Christ Himself is called not to a life of comfort so much as a life of following hard after Jesus.
Whoever does not carry the cross (said Jesus) and follow me cannot be my disciple.
Over these coming couple of weeks we’re going to be talking about living out our lives as ambassadors. Ambassadors of Christ. What does that mean? What does that look like?
Well, we’ll figure that out but today the point, I think, we’re meant to get out of our time together, you and I, is that firstly a disciple is a citizen of the country that he or she represents and if we’re to be ambassador’s of Christ, as Paul wrote.
As much as we’re immersed in our culture and as important as that is to reaching out to those around us with the good news of Jesus, we are not citizens of this world but we are citizens of heaven sent into a foreign land and as ambassadors often find the foreign places into which they’re sent don’t always want to hear what they have to say. It’s not always easy being an ambassador.
In fact the reason that countries need ambassadors is, in fact, to deal with the difficult issues. The tensions that could escalate into conflict. Ambassadors yes have to be diplomatic but they also have to tackle with difficult issues.
And if Jesus came as an ambassador of heaven to proclaim the truth and if Paul followed in His footsteps as an ambassador of Christ and if you and I are going to live out our lives in our small corner where God’s put us, as citizens of heaven and as ambassadors of Christ, that’s not always going to be easy.
The world won’t always want to hear but I’m afraid it comes with the territory. The territory of an ambassador of Christ.