“Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” 2 Corinthians 5:20
After I graduated from college, I moved to a country I had never visited before.
For two years, I lived as a foreigner in another land, but over time, I learned the accent, adopted the fashion, and ordered my coffee like a local. This new city in this new country began to feel like my home. Yet, in truth, I was not a native. My family was still thousands of miles away, and my life was a testament to another culture.
I can’t help but wonder how Jesus experienced his life on earth and if my experience abroad was parallel to his. Being raised in a family whose identity was wrapped up in the fabric of traditional practices, Jesus looked and acted like any other Jewish man.
However, even from a young age he knew he had a Heavenly Father and a Heavenly Home, as twelve year old Jesus so blatantly stated in the temple one day (Luke 2:48-50). Jesus understood his role as a member and representative of another family from another realm – God the Father and King who is enthroned in Heaven.
Through constant prayer, Jesus remained connected to the will of God, spoke with astonishing authority, and served the hurting and lost in the power of the Spirit on a daily basis. As a result of His perfect life, Jesus became our ultimate model for ambassadorship.
In his second letter to the church at Corinth, Paul urges Christ followers to embrace the role of ambassador. Through Paul’s rich language and passionate plea for the church to see its role in the Kingdom of God, we come to understand that ambassadorship is not to be taken lightly.
Here are four qualities of ambassadorship to consider as we explore how God is calling us to represent Him in our everyday lives.
1. An ambassador is appointed and sent by a higher power.
“Do you not know? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.”
Isaiah 40:28 (NIV)
Before we look at the duties and function of an ambassador, it is paramount that we acknowledge the One who appoints and sends us: The God of the Universe! The King of Kings and the Lord of Lords! The Great I AM. The Holy Trinity. Christ Jesus. Abba, our Father in Heaven who reigns in glory and majesty.
God Almighty – the highest power and being – has invited us into an intimate relationship with Him, and through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, He adopts us into the Royal Family of the Holy Trinity, for “those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God,” and “the Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children” (Romans 8:14, 16).
As children of the King, we are, therefore, citizens of heaven who share the responsibility to represent the Kingdom of God (1). As ambassadors of the Living God, we must never forget where we come from and who has sent us (2).
2. An ambassador is of the highest rank.
In ancient times, ambassadors had to know the desires of their sovereign intimately in order to represent the ruler accurately. In fact, ambassadors held the highest political rank, and they could make decisions as if they were king. Yet, that position of power did not come from the ambassador herself; she did not have to earn it through her merit or her abilities. She was respected and revered solely because she shared the identity of the one who sent her.
Before Jesus began his earthly ministry, he went to the River Jordan to be baptized. While Jesus was still soaked from the baptismal waters, the heavens opened up and God spoke: “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17).
As far as we know, Jesus had not performed one miracle nor preached one message by this point; yet, the Father gave him THE highest rank possible by establishing their relationship for all the world to know. With identity affirmed, Jesus began to carry and proclaim the message of Heaven.
As children of the King, we are given the insignia of the Almighty God, and in the fullness of time, we will bear the name of God on our foreheads (3). Although we do not dress in fine linens and royal robes, every day we are called to “put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator,” because “as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, [we] clothe [ourselves] with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” (Colossians 3:9, 12). Through God’s grace, we are “crowned with love and compassion” (Psalm 103:4) and through the power of the Holy Spirit, we receive the righteousness of God by faith in Jesus (4).
3. An ambassador has authority and power.
When an ambassador or any other dignitary was sent out by the king in ancient times, the king would give her some small token, like a ring, marked with the royal signature on it that would serve as verification for claiming to represent the king. With the image of the sovereign power on her finger, the ambassador adopts the identity of the king and therefore has all the authority and power of the king.
God’s authority and power may be the most underutilized elements of the Christian faith. Yet, it is exactly what Jesus trained his disciples to do! After years of watching, aiding, and serving alongside Jesus as he healed the sick, cast out demons, and even raised the dead, the disciples slowly realized that the same amazing authority Jesus had was being given to them. A beautiful example of the disciples moving into their ambassador-like role is recorded in Acts 3.
Peter and John were heading to the temple to pray when they were stopped by a man who had been crippled since birth. To the cripple man’s request for money, Peter replied, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk” (Acts 3:6). The man stood up and literally began jumping for joy. After a lifetime of immobility, Jesus, through Peter’s faith, gave this man a new life – and it was good! Peter knew whose authority and power he could wield to perform such a miracle, and he did not hesitate to use it. For Peter – and for us – the name of Jesus is like the royal ring that we display as we step into the places where God is moving and wanting us to represent His Kingdom to the world.
4. An ambassador represents a specific message.
The ancient ambassador represented all the thoughts, ideologies, and desires of the monarch while residing in a foreign country or a far-off province of the empire. It was of paramount importance that the ambassador understood the will of her sovereign. Jesus remained connected to the heartbeat of God through prayer, and he would often rise in the early morning hours while it was still dark to discern the will of the Lord. As a result of his faithful pursuit of the Mighty One, Jesus brought the message of reconciliation through a ministry of reconciliation (5).
The Message’s translation of 2 Corinthians 5:20 beautifully describes the ministry and message of reconciliation of ambassadors for Christ: "God uses us to persuade men and women to drop their differences and enter into God’s work of making things right between them. We’re speaking for Christ himself now: Become friends with God; he’s already a friend with you." The message of reconciliation is blessedly simple: God, our Father and King, is faithfully calling His wayward children back into relationship with Him.
The ministry of reconciliation is a little more complicated. We are called to remind friends, family members, strangers and neighbors of the message, and we are to speak, live and act “as though God were making His appeal through us” (NIV).
As followers and co-heirs with Christ, we share the responsibility to represent our eternal home and our Sovereign King. The role of ambassador is not something we can check-off our Christian To-Do List, because it’s an attitude of the heart that creates a posture for our lives.
Every day we are called to ambassadorship, no matter where we live. While God does use people like the Apostle Paul to venture into lands where God and His love are unknown, Jesus makes it very clear that we must start on the home front. While eating with his disciples between his resurrection and ascension, Jesus tell his followers that they will be his “witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). Their ministry of reconciliation began on the home front, familiar territory, and ours should, too!
As you reflect on how God wants to make his appeal through you today, consider the qualities of ambassadorship and ask yourself: Do I realize who I represent? Do I know the One who calls me His child? How does my citizenship in heaven impact my life today? Am I obedient to the King’s commands, using His authority and power to convey His message? How can my home become an embassy for Christ?
1) Philippians 3:20 – “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.”
2) John 20:21 – “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.”
3) Revelation 22:4 – “They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads.”
4) Romans 3:22 – “the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe."
5) 2 Corinthians 5:18-20 – “All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors.”
This article was originally published in Becoming Magazine.