Some common attributes:
- Lives in a foreign country
- Speaks their language (if not completely... at least some)
- Seeks ways to build bridges to those cultures from our country
- Nominated by the President
- While they live there, they are always a U.S. citizen
- Communicates the Presidents Foreign Policy to their leaders
- Participates in their culture to a certain degree (parties, festivals, seminars etc)
- Maybe has a family connection to that country (ancestors came from there)
In 2 Corinthians 5:20, Paul writes:
We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.Paul could not have picked a better word (led by the Holy Spirit how could he not!). We are ambassadors for Christ in our lives. As we live out our lives in THIS world, we are living in a foreign land reaching out to a foreign people be receive the reconciliation that God is giving them. Jesus in his high priestly prayer prayed for his disciples to "be in the world, but not of the world". Like an ambassador who while living in a foreign country must always remember they are citizens of the U.S. and they represent the President at all times, we too are always God's children. Also, while an ambassador can go to parties, luncheons and other meetings, at the same time he can not participate in activities not allowed by the US. For example the ambassador to the Netherlands cannot use drugs or go to brothels even though those activities are legal in the Netherlands they are not legal for us in the U.S. It is a delicate balance he must maintain at all times.
An ambassador must also learned to speak the truth to the leaders in those countries when asked about US concerns. He cannot for the sake of "friendship" minimize problems we have with their country. If an African country is committing genocide or sea-piracy we cannot pretend it doesn't matter to us in the US. They must be told that if things don't change the US will get involved and it won't be a pretty sight. So also, we as Christ's ambassador's must speak the truth to those around us. We cannot pretend the Bible is mum on various topics that are of concern with them. However we must strive to remain friends with them and be there for them when the time comes. Like the ambassador to a somewhat hostile country staying connected to them until the day comes when a volcano erupts, or a tsunami hits their coast, or dam breaks and wipes out a village, we can be there to help and give them aid. We too, need to be engaged with our non-Christian friends and neighbors ready to help them in there day of need.
Be IN the world but NOT of the world!
Embassies are like miniature US retreats for the ambassador. Many embassies provide them with American food, books, TV and entertainment for while they live there. In fact,even the very soil they live on is considered to be US owned and is guarded by US Marines with that conviction. But embassies are not meant to be where the ambassador spends 100% of their time, but only serve as a retreat for him/her. Likewise, we as Christians seek to create Virtual-Embassies where we try to separate ourselves from the world around us (man has always sought to be closer to God by separating themselves from other humans). But this is not what God desires for his people at all ("Be in the world, not of the world"). We do this by closing ourselves off from those around us who are not Christian by creating Christian-schools (K-college), Christian-day-cares, Christian-music, Christian-radio, Christian-TV, Christian-movies, Christian-books/magazines, Christian-clubs, Christian-gyms, Christian-coffee-shops and even Christian-dating-sites. How are we to reach a world we have nothing in common with? An ambassador that secludes themselves away inside the US Embassy and never venturing out into the country they are sent to, is of no use to the President who sent them. So also, we are of no use to God who has sent us ("As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you!" John 20:21) if we don't engage with the world around us.
What we an learn from Paul
Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 9:20
20 To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law.Here we see "Ambassador Paul" giving us advice on reaching the world around us. Nowhere in the book of Acts does Paul illustrate this better than when he was asked to speak at the Areopagus to a group of Greek philosophers. Paul went and gave them a short dissertation on the Christian faith, but he did not quote scripture to them at all. Instead he quoted an inscription on the base of an idle ("TO AN UNKNOWN GOD") and one of their own poets ("We are his children"). By doing this, he showed them that he was connected to them and engaged with their culture and not some nut-job-preacher from another country. In fact he only gets to talking about Jesus until the very end of his speech to them at which point they tell him that they want him to come back later and some who heard him received the Gospel and became followers. We can see from other writings by Paul he took part in the Gentile life as he uses analogies from athletics (running, wrestling and boxing) and even quotes Greek philosophers ("The stomach is made for food and food is made for the stomach" - 1 Corinthians 6:13). Paul uses these worldly-props as springboards for the Gospel to reach as many people as possible. When we choose to disengage with the world we lose these opportunities altogether. We may try to relate our world to them but much will be lost in translation. Like an ambassador trying to use a "American football" as an illustration to a country that knows only soccer, they just won't understand what they are talking about.
Will it mean that we might have our sensibilities offended some? Probably. Paul undoubtedly attended Olympic sporting events given the numerous times he talks about running a straight race and throwing off everything that might entangle him. These foot races were run entirely in the nude and woman were barred from viewing them (except the Vestile Virgins). Did Paul grow up seeing these races? Probably not, but he obviously did now as a missionary and God was able to use his attendance to give his people a visible form of how we should conduct ourselves in our Christian life.
Modern day opportunities
Recently I was watching the last episode of the Matrix trilogy (for some reason I never got the chance to watch it before). When I did I was astounded at how much of the movie's ending mirrors that of the gospel. If you have not seen it, I urge you to go and see it for yourself. Not only do the characters names have Christian meanings (Trinity, Neo) but also the hidden city of the free-humans is called Zion. In the last scene when Neo is taking on Smith (who represents Satan) in the virtual world controlled by the machines, Neo is laid out on the ground in front of the mainframe (which represents God) in a cross formation with wires connecting him to the virtual world. The machine wants to rid itself of the Smith-virus but it cannot without a human to "bridge the gap". Neo realizes that the only way to destroy Smith is to let him kill him and destroy him from the inside. Neo becomes Smith and then destroys Smith ("He who knew no sin, became sin for us") and the mainframe machine says "It is done!". The people in Zion rejoice saying "It's done! The war is over! The war is over!".
What a wonderful springboard for us to reach our non-Christian friends as they will not go see a Christian-movie, but they will talk to us about one of their most popular science fiction movies of all time. But we can't talk to them about it unless we have first seen it. Does the Matrix contain graphic violence and foul language? Of course it does. But if Paul can watch naked men run across and open field, I think we should allow ourselves the opportunity to watch movies or listen to music that connect us with the world around us.
It's time for us to venture outside the Embassy and engage with the people we are sent to share the Gospel with around us and be the ambassadors Christ wants us to be!