EVERY MEMBER IS AN AMBASSADOR DOING MINISTRY AS AMBASSADORS FOR CHRIST! I used to wonder why Paul took so much pain to list the qualifications of a Bishop/elder in 1st Timothy 3:1 – 7. From hospitality, the ability to teach, having his home in tip-top order, and exercising temperance and self-control, to that elusive character of detachment from things and money. Like Elders, Ambassadors take many years to rise. Do any of us know what an ambassador is supposed to do, or how an ambassador should behave? Do we know how an ambassador is expected to deal with the various public issues in a foreign country, with which he comes into contact? A REAL AMBASSADOR Every baptized born again believer is designated as an ambassador for the Kingdom of God. The realization that we are members of God’s diplomatic corps, and as such it is important to know how to behave as diplomats. True Ambassadors are not only humble and gracious but assumes the position of a humble servant or steward, looking after the interests of their country, as well as serving and helping people to learn more about their country and its culture. He talks well about his country’s culture, people and climate. He is in a foreign country, exclusively and strictly to promote his homeland. They never give any impression of being super duper, glad-handed super-salesmen, for their country, but by becoming more and more accommodating stewards, they practice what the apostle Paul counsels us to observe in Philippians 2:4: “Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.” Ambassadors are not self-interested in the least, but are always interested in supplying the needs of others, actively esteeming others more than themselves. They talk with conviction! They simply present facts about their home nation, and are ever ready to defend anything that sounds irritable about their own home. CULTURAL REPRESENTATIVES Not only do ambassadors conduct themselves with ambassadorial etiquette, but every member of the diplomatic community (Embassy/High Commission/Consulate etc) realizes his extreme vulnerability as a minority member of a majority alien culture. In such a position, a diplomat must be circumspect in all his words and activities, careful not to offend his host country or bring disrepute upon his homeland. If you visited an Ambassador’s home(as I have done a few times), there are gentle but bold reminders that you are a guest at a foreign country’s Embassy. All the food, drinks, artwork, murals and paintings and photographs (mountains, lakes and forests) take you back to his home country. The books there, the music, the orchestra and symphony, even the folk music played over speakers throughout the residence, are all about the country that commissioned him. Once you’re there, you can’t help feeling like his country. May be thousands of kilometers away but so near and real as you move up and down the Embassy. GRACIOUS SPEECH Besides humility and hospitality, Ambassadors demonstrate diplomacy and wisdom, speaking very circumspectly, carefully considering the consequences of what they say, extremely careful not to injure the feelings of others needlessly. Ambassadors or any other member of the diplomatic community can never let their personal feelings enter any public speech or discussion. They merely repeat the official position of their country. Likewise, junior consuls in the Embassy keep their pet opinions to themselves (or at least qualify them as their own pet opinions). Remember, Ambassadors, take many years to raise! The apostle Paul was perhaps one of the most skillful diplomats the world has ever seen. In I Cor 10:32 – 33, he explains his task when he meets diverse peoples and cultures: “Give no offense, either to the Jews or to the Greeks or to the church of God, just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit, but the profit of many that they may be saved”. Paul’s mentor in diplomatic skills, Jesus Christ, had earlier proclaimed, Woe to that man by whom the offense comes!” (Mathew 18:7). Some of us have been past masters at creating offenses, “being wise as doves and harmless as serpents”! As Christ’s ambassadors, we must repent of such behavior. If we want to follow the example of the master diplomat, the apostle Paul, schooled under both Jesus Christ and Gamaliel, we should look at a significant encounter he had with the philosophers at Athens in Acts 17. To begin, Paul paid the Athenians a compliment: “then Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, Men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are very religious” (Acts 17:22). If we were to read between the lines, Paul might be saying, “You Athenians are to be commended for your devotion to spiritual things” the King James’ rendering of “religious” as “superstitions” exposes the latter word as having undergone what linguists call semantic drift. In Shakespeare’s day and King James’ time, this word did not have the negative connotation as it does today. The word stood for being religious, G1174 – deisidaimonesteros, pronounced, dice-ee-dahee-mon-es’-ter-os, ie more religious than others). From the context of this account, it is plain that the apostle Paul was not, as some theologians like to characterize him a critic, wrangling: argumentative hothead. The men of Athens, who vastly outnumbered Paul and loved a good philosophical debate, could be made short work out of any know-it-all smart brat. The apostle Paul was thus lavish in he compliments Diplomacy per excellence! Throughout his ministry, he frequently resorted to diplomatic language. The master diplomat at one point, acknowledged a cultural debt both to the Greeks and to barbarians (Romans 1:14). In addition to complimenting strangers, Paul continually sought out similarities he shared between him and other groups. In a conflict in which both the Sadducees and the Pharisees were breathing fire down his neck, Paul masterfully ingratiated himself to the Pharisees, reminding them that he and they shared the same view on the resurrection (Acts 23 :6-8) Paul, to the right people, let it be known that he was a Roman citizen Acts 16:37-39; 22:25-29). COMMON GROUND We also need to find common ground, not only with people in the other groups of Ambassadors for Christ Church, but with the world at large, emphasizing (like mountains) the things we agree upon and de-emphasizing (like molehills or is it serpent?) the things we disagree upon. In the process of finding common ground, we dare not compromise our core values or synchronize them with the world. We should instead practice more of what one wise Christian leader once said, “You don’t have to tell all you know”. Oftentimes, keeping our traps shut is the most diplomatic behavior of all (Ecclesiastes 3:7; Lamentations 3:28-29; Amos 5:13) in the scenario at Athens in Acts 17:23,, the apostle Paul deliberately builds a bridge of common understanding and similarity, referring to something the Athenians already understood: “For as I was passing through and considering the objects of your worship, I even found an altar with this inscription; TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Therefore, the one whom you worship without knowing, Him I proclaim to you.” Later, in verse 28, Paul again seeks common ground by quoting from their own literature:” For in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, “For we are also His offspring”. We must note, this was not a bible verse he is quoting. The important thing to remember is that the apostle Paul started at the Athenians” current level of understanding; continually finding commonalities between himself and his audience upon which to build mutual understanding and foster growth. An ambassador skillfully demonstrates how his country and another’s country share similar interests. Remember also that an alliance is not so much built on friendship as on common interests. To summary, in successful diplomatic negotiating, points we agree upon must be stressed and any disagreements must be emphasized. This is how to work together. This is how to love those we do not necessarily agree in all things anyway, in all practice, in tastes and preferences? An ambassador should never be a pushy salesman or a glad-handed public relations man or convenient pretender, if you with. Whatever his rank in the diplomatic community, Ambassador, Consul General, Charge d ffaires, junior consul, envoy, or diplomat, he has the following characteristic; He is a representative of another culture, another way of life, NOT his own view and prejudices. In this capacity, he does not give his own opinions, but advances the positions of his home country (for us it is God’s Kingdom). He functions as a servant or steward, representing his country faithfully. He knows he must account for every idle word, before the one who commissioned him. As such he practices hospitality, courtesy and graciousness. This is called diplomatic etiquette! Proverbs 13:17 reads, “a wicked messenger falls into trouble, but a faithful ambassador brings health.” As faithful ambassador for Christ, we ought to bring health, refreshment, and comfort to the people with whom we come into contact, more so, our fellow ministers and brethren. The best manual in the world cannot achieve unity of purpose and vision. Focus being Ambassadors for Christ, will!
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