2 Corinthians 5:20 “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.”
An ambassador is not an entrepreneur. He is not self-employed or self-appointed. He serves under the authority, and acts by the authority, of someone else. So it is with Christ’s ambassadors. As ambassadors of Christ, we serve on his behalf, under his authority. Perhaps that seems obvious. Whom else might we look to as our authority? Our churches? Our communities? Ourselves?
It is true that we serve our Christian brothers and sisters in the faith. We should receive their advice and counsel and work together with them as a team, even receive their loving rebuke if called for. But we are Christ’s ambassador. We work for him, because he is our authority.
Nor is our authority those people Christ calls us to reach. In order to reach them we need to get to know them, immerse ourselves in their culture, and build bridges with them so that we clearly communicate the gospel.
But it would be strange, wouldn’t it, if the U.S. Ambassador to China began to support and promote the positions of the government of the People’s Republic of China instead of the United States? Isn’t that backwards? Doesn’t that make the ambassador more or less useless? In the same way we can never win the lost by adopting their lost positions. Then they have won us. Live with the people God has placed in your path. Learn from them. Love them. But don’t forget that you are Christ’s Ambassador to them, and he is your authority.
As ambassadors, what is the message Christ wants us to deliver? “We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.”
Paul’s own delivery of the message was filled with urgency. “We implore you,” he says. He is pleading, begging. That’s because the gospel we’ve been given is not just information. We aren’t reciting a list of neutral facts, like a person reading definitions out of a dictionary. We are all about the greatest issue of all time. The eternal future of the people who hear us hangs in the balance. The message we have been given is more than a matter of life or death. It is a matter of heaven or hell.
Deliver that message with passion. Urge people. Plead with them. Implore. Assert. Let them see that it is your cause. I’m not suggesting that we need to take on a different personality when we talk to others about Jesus. Urgency can be communicated in a low-key way, too. But since we are Christ’s Ambassador, let his message be our cause.
When we consider its contents– Jesus’ gracious work for us– can it be anything else? “Be reconciled to God.” If those words were a command to us to make amends for our past and convince God to take us back, they would be depressing. Who would be equal to such a task? We would all remain his enemies.
But these words communicate something real, accomplished, and available, not just possible or potential. They assume Jesus’ saving work just verses before, “…that God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, not counting men’s sins against them.” Being reconciled to God is not about us convincing him to change his mind about us. It is about Jesus giving us a new status, a new identity before God. The very Son of God loved us so much he gave up heaven to become one of us and live in our world. He gave up his own life to pay for the sins that we have committed. Our sins no longer count against us. With our sins forgiven, God has nothing left to be angry about. He hasn’t changed. He never does. But Jesus’ work changes how we look to him. God is smiling on us because we look sinless to him now.
Someplace in his introduction to The Screwtape Letters C.S. Lewis writes that he was not gifted with extraordinary insights into human sin and temptation when he wrote about them, as some people assumed from the book. He needed to look no further than his own heart for examples. On the gospel side, the more that our own hearts have seen Christ’s work, have tasted the sweet peace of reconciliation with God, the better ambassadors we will be of the message he wants proclaimed.
I once heard about a church whose motto was, “We’re all about the people.” I don’t want to be hypercritical. The motto could be understood in a proper way. But isn’t there something more important that we are all about? We’re all about the Savior. And we will continue to be, so long as we are Christ’s Ambassadors.