This past Sunday the sermon was built around the fifth chapter of 2 Corinthians, and Paul’s exploration of the role of the Christian as God’s new creation and ambassador.
The idea of being an ambassador is part of a long-standing journey on my part: I was part of a year-of-your-life ministry outreach called ‘Ambassadors’ based on this very passage that Paul wrote.
The Ambassador program was simultaneously awkward and awesome and provided a valuable lesson: that my calling was not to the hinterlands of Africa. At least not at that time or since, with the caveat that He may call anyone (including me) anywhere at any time in the future.
That was 1997 and a lot of proverbial water has churned its way under the bridge. I’ve come to realise that it doesn’t have to be in darkest Africa, that every Believer is called to be an ambassador wherever they are. Imagine being a Christian trying to minister to the swamp creatures in Washington D.C. now as the Kavanaugh-Ford debacle is unfolding…D.C. seems way darker than Africa right now, and it’s more of a crucible and seems infinitely more difficult to walk the narrow path in the back-stabbing halls and conspiratorial ante-rooms of the Senate.
And so to Paul’s letter to the Corinthian Christians:
“17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:[a] The old has gone, the new is here! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation:” (2 Corinthians 5; NIV)
We are new creations and no longer simply citizens of earthly countries: we are citizens of God’s kingdom. He is our King; we are His subjects, His people. Not merely in terms of our citizenship, we are new beings in a way we never were before. Where we were naturally alive, with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit we are also now spiritually alive.
The King desires that all men are reconciled and so He has given us the ministry of reconciliation.
I got to thinking about the word ‘ministry’. It denotes something serious, an undertaking of an organisational body like a government that proposes a way to run an aspect of society. There are ministries of serious things like foreign affairs, health, education, trade and industry, and agriculture.
There is a British record label that imitates an official government office: the Ministry of Sound:
There is a Monty Python sketch that lampoons the British impulse to organise society with the most trivial matters: The Ministry of Silly Walks:
We have been given a ministry, not with strictly earthly parameters, but with a view to eternity, a ministry of reconciliation. A sermon by Stephen Funderburk I found online distills the whole idea as follows:
“Paul sees the work of Jesus Christ on the cross as a mandate for all believers to share this good news. He defines it as a ministry of reconciliation. We have the call to share Christ where people who are the enemies of God, can now through Christ be made the friends of God through Jesus.”
“…we don’t see ourselves as just church folks, members or weekend warriors. We see ourselves as constantly on the mission field. Everywhere we go we have this treasure in earthen vessels. You don’t have to go to the other side of the world, but across the street, on the jobsite, at school or anywhere you have the opportunity to share the message of salvation. Freely you have received, freely give.”
Wherever we are, there is the mission field.
Paul continues: “20 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.” (2 Corinthians 5; NIV)
Chris Patton proposes a definition of an ambassador that I like and I think is accurate:
“An ambassador is a dignitary whose full-time job is to live for a period (usually years) in a foreign land, intentionally building relationships with the people native to that land and purposefully representing to those people the desires of his king.”
I think of those who if they saw the Lord walking down the street, would cross the road to walk on the other side, pretending that they didn’t see Him; those living in sexual sin, Islamic ignorance, atheist apathy. It isn’t hatred to make the observation that people need to repent and leave ignorance, sin and apathy behind. It’s an invitation to grace.
That is the very serious and very necessary ministry of reconciliation that we are tasked with as Christians.
To those who crossed the road to avoid Him: with Paul, I say, ‘be reconciled to God!’
To my fellow believers: stand strong in these days, be deliberate as an ambassador.