In October, the U.S. Senate confirmed the appointment of Caroline Kennedy as U.S. ambassador to Japan. (Can you believe, by the way, that Caroline turns 56 later this month? How time flies, at least for us Baby Boomers, who remember her as the wee little girl running around the White House when her father, John F. Kennedy, was President.)
Ambassadors have been in the news a lot lately. Debate continues over the Sept. 11, 2012 terrorist attack on the diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, in which four Americans were killed, including U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, and 10 other people injured.
The fact ambassadors and embassies are making headlines is newsworthy in itself. Because unlike most political offices, in which those elected often seek publicity to promote their legislation and causes or to further their careers and ambitions, ambassadors aren’t there to call attention to themselves.
Typically, ambassadorships are bestowed as rewards for meritorious service, gestures of appreciation for aiding the President in some way, or a graceful transition from more rigorous public service. But ambassadors – unless you come from a famous political family or get assassinated on foreign soil – rarely generate front-page attention or lead off the evening news.
We sometimes hear about “good will ambassadors,” but the real task of the ambassador entails much more than shaking hands and smiling. The duty, simply put, is to represent someone of greater authority – like a chief executive, or a foreign state – speaking on his or her behalf. Their jobs are not to espouse and seek to advance their own agendas.
So it’s interesting to read a Bible passage describing followers of Jesus as ambassadors. “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).
We often hear people that don’t share faith in Jesus basically telling His followers to “shut up.” Talking to others about Him, they contend, is offensive, intolerant, narrow-minded, bigoted, and not nice. While nonbelievers have every right to believe – or disbelieve – as they do, followers of Christ don’t have much choice.
Imagine, for instance, Ms. Kennedy arriving in Japan and rather than properly representing U.S. interests on various issues, she elects to take opposing stances. At state dinners, instead of being a loyal, steadfast representative of the United States, she consistently badmouths our nation and undermines all diplomatic initiatives. And when given an important message to deliver, she refuses to do so. What kind of ambassador would she be?
In a similar way, the Bible declares, God has entrusted His people with an urgent message and desires for us to communicate it as faithfully and effectively as possible. This message, the same passage states, is “the message of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:19). In another passage, the apostle Paul explains, “…the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel. For I did not receive it from any man nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ” (Galatians 1:11-12).
That’s the essence of being an ambassador – not speaking for yourself, but on behalf of the person or entity you represent. Certainly, like a foreign ambassador, those called to serve as ambassadors for Jesus need to do so with “gentleness and respect” as they’re instructed in 1 Peter 3:15. At the same time, it’s not our place to promote our own agendas, personal opinions or philosophies “in the name of Christ.” We are to speak for Him – consistent with what He’s revealed to us in the Scriptures.
But to refuse to speak – to fail to communicate God’s message at the appropriate time and setting? For the believer, that just isn’t an option.
Robert J. Tamasy is a veteran journalist, a former newspaper editor and magazine editor. He is presently vice president of communications for Leaders Legacy, Inc., a non-profit focused on mentoring and coaching business and professional leaders. Bob has written hundreds of magazine articles, and has authored, co-authored and edited more than 15 books. These include “Tufting Legacies,” “The Heart of Mentoring,” “Business at Its Best,” and “Pursuing Life With a Shepherd’s Heart.” He edits a weekly business meditation, “Monday Manna,” which is translated into more than 20 languages and distributed via email around the world by CBMC International. He also posts regularly on two blogs, www.bobtamasy.blogspot.com, and www.bobtamasy.wordpress.com. He can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.