By Jason Soroski, Crosswalk.com
“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 5:20
Scripture makes clear that we are called to be ambassadors for Christ. That makes it important for us to understand exactly what an ambassador is and what an ambassador does. When we consider that we are representatives of our King, how should this affect our behavior, our relationships, and our purpose?
How I found a Biblical Truth from a Restaurant
I have always been a big fan of Texas Roadhouse. I love the food, and I love the environment! For over a decade, Texas was my home, and I have come to appreciate that wherever I am in the country. I can recapture that Texas feeling at any nearby Texas Roadhouse. From Maine to Montana, you can find this restaurant in any state except Hawaii and Washington, and they all look and feel like Texas because that is what the place is designed to represent. From the food, the vibe, the music, and right down to the Texas flag flying over the building, this restaurant accurately represents the state of Texas. Now that I think of it, the restaurant is kind of like an unofficial Texas embassy.
The Role of an Ambassador
Even though Texas Roadhouse can be found in just about every state, it retains its distinct Texas identity. This is basically what an ambassador does. In 2 Corinthians 5:20, Paul refers to himself, along with all believers, as ambassadors for Christ. From ancient times through today, governments have seen the benefit of sending and receiving ambassadors: an official who lives and works in one nation while being a citizen and representative of another. An ambassador serves many purposes: they allow for safe and friendly communication between leaders who may not be on friendly terms and advance the interests of their home nation in the nation they are an ambassador to.
For example, the US ambassador to France may live and work in France, speak French, and raise their kids in France. Yet their goals and interests are to not become French but to represent and speak up for the interests and good of the United States to the French government, and ensure that American citizens are treated properly while traveling in France. We could essentially say that they are in France, but not of it.
In the World but Not of It
“They are not of the world, even as I am not of it.” - John 17:16
Paul’s assertion that we are ambassadors for Christ is grounded in the teachings of Jesus Himself. Jesus made it clear that when we believe in Him, we are essentially taking up citizenship in another Kingdom, His heavenly Kingdom. This is further confirmed in his conversation with Pilate when he stated that His, “kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place” (John 18:36).
Jesus makes it clear that this world is not His Kingdom, yet we spend far too much of our time trying to make it that way. How desperately we want people to just ‘get it!’ We want them to just understand who Jesus is and what He did for them and why it changes everything about...everything! Yet it isn’t hard to realize that even though we live and move in our world, we are not truly of it. We have become citizens of another Kingdom, and we now work as representatives, as ambassadors, of that kingdom as we continue living our lives on this earth. This can be difficult to live out, so what does that really look like?
One way to figure it out is to use Paul as an example. He was, like many of us, a dual-citizen with a complex personality. Paul was simultaneously a devout Jew, a citizen of Rome, and a citizen of heaven. How did Paul utilize this unique mix of ‘citizenship’ to his advantage, and more importantly, how did he use it to the advantage of the Kingdom of God?
A Citizen of Rome, an Ambassador of Christ, and a Delicate Balance
“The commander went to Paul and asked, ‘Tell me, are you a Roman citizen?’ ‘Yes, I am,’ he answered.” - Acts 22:27
I am blessed to be a member of God’s Kingdom, and also proud to be an American. How do we balance our citizenship of two kingdoms? First of all, it is of utmost importance that no part of our identity supersedes our identity in Christ. We find many ways to divide ourselves up, and have many ways to identify ourselves. Politics, careers, hobbies, likes, and dislikes all define, and separate us. Whatever it is that defines us, it must be secondary to our place as believers in Christ. Sadly, we even divide ourselves within the Church family: Armenian, Calvinist, Complementarian, Egalitarian, Traditional, Progressive, etc. All of these ‘qualifiers’ must be set aside for the sake of our unity in a Savior who died for our sin and rose on the third day. These discussions are not wrong, yet they become wrong when they become divisive.
As for Paul’s earthly citizenship, we see on several occasions that Paul has no issue in proclaiming the fact that he is a Roman citizen, and therefore entitled to the rights and privileges of a Roman citizen. In Acts 22, Paul is thrown into prison for this vocal representation of Christ. It can be said that he was facing prison on the basis of his ambassadorship. Once in custody, it was planned that he would be flogged, which was common in those times. However, Paul brings up his citizenship as a Roman, “As they stretched him out to flog him, Paul said to the centurion standing there, ‘Is it legal for you to flog a Roman citizen who hasn’t even been found guilty?’” When the centurion heard this, he went to the commander and reported it. ‘What are you going to do?’ he asked. “This man is a Roman citizen” (Acts 22:25-26).
Paul knew that as a citizen, it was illegal for them to flog him. He, therefore, demanded his rights as a Roman citizen to defend his work as an ambassador for God’s Kingdom. He does this again in Acts 25:10-12 when he appeals to Caesar, “Paul answered: ‘I am now standing before Caesar’s court, where I ought to be tried. I have not done any wrong to the Jews, as you yourself know very well. If, however, I am guilty of doing anything deserving death, I do not refuse to die. But if the charges brought against me by these Jews are not true, no one has the right to hand me over to them. I appeal to Caesar!’ After Festus had conferred with his council, he declared: ‘You have appealed to Caesar. To Caesar you will go!’”.
Only a Roman citizen had the right to avoid local courts and be tried in the court of Caesar in Rome. Therefore, we also are free as believers to use our rights as citizens of whatever nation we live in to further the Kingdom of Christ. Yet we can never allow those rights, or our demands to have those rights, to become more important to us than our privilege to be called children of God.
Whatever Happened to Diplomatic Immunity?
Most of us have heard of diplomatic immunity. The idea is that an ambassador is ‘immune’ from most punishment in the country where they are working. This keeps nations from taking out their grievances on the messenger and allows people to have hard conversations and to do difficult work without fear of reprisal. In the case of Paul, the ambassador for Christ and Roman citizen, this meant an appeal to Caesar. We must note that this appeal still ended in imprisonment and death. So, what was the point of it? The fruit that came from his appeal was that the gospel was proclaimed throughout Rome, and many came to faith because of Paul’s imprisonment there. Even as a prisoner, he never gave up his role as ambassador. Was it fair? No. Was it God’s plan so that God would be glorified? Absolutely.
As believers, we should expect persecution. Just like Paul, we would be naïve to expect that we can use our ‘national’ rights as a way to shield our safety. As believers, we will be hated and ridiculed for proclaiming the gospel. This has been true since Jesus Himself came proclaiming salvation.
Representing Christ Wherever we Are
Just like Texas Roadhouse represents the state of Texas wherever it may be located, our representation of Jesus should look no different no matter where we are or what we are doing. We should use our influence to change our family, our community, and the far corners of the earth as we have the opportunity. As ambassadors, we are to represent Jesus and share the good news of His Kingdom in every circumstance, no matter the difficulties that may arise in doing so. As ambassadors, we know our future is secure, our Savior is good, and our message is eternal. Our utmost concern is living out and representing the truth and mission that we have been entrusted with.
Photo credit: ©GettyImages/ duckycards
Jason Soroski is a homeschool dad and author of A Journey to Bethlehem: Inspiring Thoughts for Christmas and Hope for the New Year. He serves as worship pastor and in Colorado and spends his weekends exploring the Rocky Mountains with his family. Connect on Twitter, Instagram, or at JasonSoroski.net.