Ambassadors or Judges: What Are Christians Supposed to Be?

It seems that our government has lost the fine art of statesmanship. We are so partisan and polarized that compromise has become a thing of the past. Every elected official is supposed to represent constituents, but most of them spend so much time being contentious that they forget how to be ambassadors.

Come to think of it, I guess all of us are ambassadors in one way or another. According to Miriam-Webster, Ambassadors are authorized envoys or representatives of a government, or unofficial representatives, such as ambassadors of goodwill. You may not have been appointed by the government, but you are probably a representative of your family, for instance, or perhaps your work. As representatives of something larger than ourselves, what we do reflects on whatever or whoever that is. If you are a Christian, according to Paul, you have received an appointment, and you are reflecting on Christ himself. I guess, to me, that’s where things get interesting.

An International Assignment

“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.” (I Corinthians 6:20, NIV). Wow, it’s kinda scary to think that God is using US as his ambassadors to make his appeal to the world.

Remember that when God sent the Angel to Cornelius in Acts 10, the Angel told him to get in touch with Peter, who would tell him what to do. Peter told him about “the good news of peace through Jesus Christ” in 10:36. Cornelius and his whole household believed and were baptized. So why didn’t the Angel just deliver the Gospel to Cornelius? BECAUSE ANGELS CAN’T do evangelism! Only we humans are empowered to share the gospel.

We are Christ’s only ambassadors on the earth. He told the disciples that he was going away, but that he would come again for us. In the meantime, since he is not physically here, we have been appointed to represent him. It is our role to reflect Christ in a fallen world, to be “Jesus with skin on” wherever we are, providing salt to the corruptible and light in the darkness.

Are You a Disciple or a Christian?

If you’ll recall, in the early days of the Church there were disciples who followed Jesus, and they acted so much like him that folks began calling people who followed Jesus “little Christs”, or Christians. Acts 11:26 says the word Christian did not come into vogue for at least couple of years after Jesus had departed: “And when he (Barnabus) had found him (Saul), he brought him to Antioch. So it was that for a whole year they assembled with the church and taught a great many people. And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.”

People were called Christians because they seemed to be a literal representation of Jesus himself. Every Christian is therefore a representative of Christ. I have always wondered how Jesus would act if he was among us. Would he be Church-Lady judgmental? Would Jesus keep a sharp eye out for other people’s sins, and would he be shocked at our culture’s selfishness and licentiousness? How would he treat others? Maybe he’d be quick to judge and nit-pick?

ambassadors

Ambassadors for Who?

Or would Jesus be a cool guy to hang out with, dispensing wisdom with perhaps a touch of good-natured humor? Would he be loving but intense, with flashes of transfigured glory, and would we see his healing and miracles? Would he be having engaging conversations with friends, intriguing them with the gospel?

There’s no doubt in my mind that if Jesus were among us, people would be amazed and surprised by Him… They would be curious about him, stimulated to deepen their love for God as well as others around them. Well, according to this verse, he IS among us, and his presence is evident, making its appeal through ambassadors. Those ambassadors are us.

We are now the representatives of Christ on this earth, the lens through which all unbelievers see him. Our actions and statements determine whether the world sees Christians as a bunch of petty, judgmental tight-wads, or as generous, fun-loving friends… No pressure, ya’ll, but how do you think we’re doing?

Representatives

Ambassadors can negotiate a treaty or a deal;
They represent their sponsor with authority that’s real.
Folks watch them because they are the ones who have been sent,
And people make conclusions about Who they represent.
Do people see your God as petty, mean, or temperamental?
Do they conclude that He is disappointed and judgmental?
If there are false impressions about what your God would do,
Remember: God’s ambassador on earth to them is YOU.

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread
For the Kindle Edition, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Bo-Jackson-ebook/dp/B01K5Z0NLA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-2&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

Redemption: How Much Does It Cost? And Are You Worth the Price?

Redemption? Me?

The definition of redemption is “the action of regaining or gaining possession of something in exchange for payment, or clearing a debt.” If you hocked an electric guitar or a watch to a pawn shop in exchange for a loan, then you can’t have it or use it anymore until you REDEEM it by paying back the loan. In the cosmic scheme of things, we have been kidnapped by sin and held for ransom, and we are in need of redemption. The Bible puts it like this:

“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.” (Ephesians 1:7-10, NIV)

Bought Back

If you read these verses, this is a pretty good list. Paul says not only are we redeemed and forgiven, but that God has lavished grace upon us and revealed to us the mystery of his will. Those are all amazing things to think about, and all of them are connected to Christ’s sacrifice for us. Paul maintains that it is through the death of Jesus that we are forgiven, given grace, and brought into God’s family under Christ’s leadership. Stop and think for a minute about the first thing on the list, redemption. As Christians, we have been redeemed, and I bet we haven’t spent five minutes thinking about how important that is.

There are two things about redemption that stand out to me. The definition of redemption is “the action of regaining or gaining possession of something in exchange for payment, or clearing a debt.” If you traded your wedding ring or smart phone to a pawn shop in exchange for a loan, then you can’t have it or use it anymore until you REDEEM it by paying back the loan. In ancient times, prisoners taken in war would be held captive until someone paid a price for them and bought them back from slavery. They had to be REDEEMED by someone who loved them enough to buy them back.

Cosmic Redemption

The whole process is linked to something (or someone) being held as collateral for a price. In your case, YOU were taken hostage by Death, and only God cared enough to redeem you from Death’s captivity by paying its price. Sin and the Fall forced everyone in this world into captivity to Death; only by being redeemed can we escape Death’s penalty and experience a different quantity and quality of life. Being released from Death is awesome, but there is a second and more subtle result of redemption.

redemption
16 Aug 1957 — 8/16/1957-Levittown, Long Island, NY- Loaded down with premiums, a happy mother and daughter leave the King Korn Redemption Center (at 2841, Hempstead Turnpike) in Levittown, Long Island, NY, after exchanging their trading stamps for a variety of goods. Stamp savers can walk out of these stores with anything from baseballs to electric broilers. The firm has found that the average family fills one stamps-saver book of 1500 stamps a month. — Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

Redeemed for What?

When I was little, my mom would get S & H Green stamps at the grocery store and paste them in a book. When she had enough books, we’d go to the redemption center, which was like a store full of things that you could buy with your stamps. There were things like toasters, lamps, and hair-dryers you could get for a few books of stamps; and there were washing machines, refrigerators and furniture for LOTS of books. But the merchandise would sit there, unclaimed and unused until someone wanted it and redeemed it.

Those toasters never toasted, the washers never washed, and the merchandise never fulfilled its purpose as long as it remained unredeemed. It sat there in the store just waiting for someone to claim it, take it home and use it. You see where I’m going with this, don’t you? WE were like that. We had been put on the shelf by death, set aside as unwanted and unclaimed. But God loved us enough to pay the price for us! He redeemed us! So here’s the question: now that you’ve been redeemed, have you been put to use? Are you glad that someone paid for you?

redemption Private Ryan

Justifying the Cost

In the movie “Saving Private Ryan” a platoon is sent across war-torn France to find the last survivor from among the four Ryan brothers who were killed serving in World War II. The War Department had a policy that was designed to keep a family from losing its last surviving son, so men were dispatched to located him and extract him from the field of battle. Ultimately he is found and rescued, but there is a great cost.

Later on, long after the war he visits the Normandy grave of the team leader who helped to save his own life, and reflects on D-Day and the horrible things men experienced in combat (things he himself went through). Team Leader John H. Miller was played by Tom Hanks, and most of his team was killed finding and saving Private James Francis Ryan. There is a pivotal moment near the end of the film between Miller and Ryan. As he lay wounded amidst the ruins of battle, Miller wearily looks around at the sacrifices made on Ryan’s behalf, looks him in the eye and exhorts him to “Earn this!” Those are Miller’s last words, and they stay with James Francis Ryan the rest of his life.

Lasting Impact

The movie begins and ends at a cemetery in Normandy, where the older James Francis Ryan visits Miller’s grave as Ryan’s wife, children and grandchildren look on. In a very touching scene, while his family waits in the background, Ryan speaks to the grave, and affirms that he has tried to live up to Miller’s exhortation. In tears, he asks his somewhat confused wife, who has come up beside him, “Have I lived a good life? Have I been a good man?” He seeks affirmation that he was worthy of the sacrifice made for him.

Perhaps that is something all of us should do as we pray from time to time. Since Christ redeemed us, we don’t have to EARN it, but we can express it: “For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.” (1 Corinthians 6:20) We can’t work our way into redemption, but perhaps, having been redeemed, we should remember the price, and strive to be WORTHY of it.

Redemption

Back when I was little, and my mom would save some stamps,
She’d take them down to S & H for toasters, or for lamps.
We’d go to the Redemption Store, where there was lots of stuff,
And you could buy a couch with stamps if you had saved enough!
Saving Private Ryan tells about the brutal cost
That’s paid to find John Francis Ryan, whose brothers had been lost;
The team who finds him has to fight their way through hell on earth,
And they exhort him to remember what his life is worth,
Reminding him of efforts made for him–that lives were lost–
Exhorting him to live his life remembering the cost…
If you’ve ever been redeemed, whatever you may do,
Do you ever count the cost of what God did for you?
If you ever think of Christ, it might just make you weep
To know redemption might be free, but it was never cheap…

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread