Not long ago, I was sorting through a drawer full of odds and ends—items long forgotten—and a small, clasped envelope drew my attention. When I opened it up, a flood of memories swept over me. The envelope contained all of my father’s passports. He was a diplomat with the U.S. State Department, and as his son, I was given the opportunity to have a front row seat to the intriguing world of international diplomacy, living abroad, and interacting with other cultures.
My father’s first embassy was in Tehran—not long after the CIA helped put the Shah into power in 1953. He met and married my mother there, and six kids later our family finally returned to the United States where he finished his distinguished career in the nation’s capital. I was born in Nicosia, Cyprus (I think that’s why I like the Apostle Barnabas so much – he was a Cypriot). Having also lived in Singapore, Bolivia, Germany, and Iceland, I find myself deeply grateful for some amazing life experiences . . . not to mention always doing well in world geography (smile).
During a high school government class, I wrote a paper on what it means to be an ambassador, and I interviewed my father for the assignment. Years later, after I had come to Christ, I found the paper in a box of old schoolwork my mother had saved—moms do this sort of thing. What amazed me were the biblical parallels that came through the interview with my Dad, concepts I had never really seen (or understood) before.
The title of ambassador is actually derived from a Celtic word that means “servant” and was first applied in this manner by Charles V in the middle of the 16th century. Another word used years ago defined the person as a “plenipotentiary,” or one who is “a diplomatic agent vested with full power to transact business.” You and I are no different. All authority in Heaven and on the earth was given to Jesus (Matt. 28:18) and He vested it with us so we may transact His business.
In a world where there is so much brokenness and pain, we see marriages struggling, families in pain, and lives and relationships being torn apart. I believe the concept of ministry falls under the umbrella of reconciliation—though there are many facets and variations. This is a view Paul reinforces to the Corinthians: “Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation” (2 Cor. 5:18-19). Paul then lays out God’s design to accomplish this purpose when he says, “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God, were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God”(vs. 20).
What about you and me? Do we see ourselves as God’s ambassadors . . . to our family members and loved ones, to our spouses and children, our coworkers, friends, and neighbors . . . those who need to experience reconciliation? Some people we know may need to be reconciled with God, some may need to be reconciled with others, and frankly, some may need to be reconciled with themselves. If the Church desires to move closer toward a more just and compassionate society, it must take place one life at a time through people who are willing to stand up and be counted. Christians are uniquely positioned to demonstrate the affirmation of life, the upholding of human dignity, the cultivation of love for others, and the sacrifice and service of self-denial. The truth is we have been given a wonderful opportunity to represent Christ as His ambassadors, so let’s take a closer look at some of the qualities and character traits that define this important role.
- Ambassadors are Chosen. The Scriptures affirm this truth, “. . . you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Pet. 2:9). It is the prerogative of any president, ruler, prime minister, or king to handpick ambassadors. It is a high and prestigious honor, and an ambassador is often referred to as the “Chief of Mission” in another country’s capital for the purpose of establishing diplomatic ties. The “choosing” comes as an outgrowth of the relationship between the ambassador and the one whom he or she serves. Similarly, as Christian ambassadors, we have our commission from the Lord because it flows from being in relationship with Him. We have been given definite instructions, a definite task, and a definite assurance of His unfailing and continuing presence. We did not choose God; He chose us (Jn. 15:16). We have been handpicked and He made us a kingdom of priests and rulers, so we should likewise, “be all the more diligent to make certain His calling and choosing” (2 Pet. 1:10).
- Ambassadors are Faithful. When it comes to showing honor toward a sovereign leader, ambassadors are known for their loyalty, a quality usually demonstrated over a period of time. Faithfulness also matters to God, and He knows someone, “who is faithful in that which is least, will also be faithful in that which is much” (Lk. 16:10). God encourages His ambassadors to take steps of faith so they can be given greater responsibility in kingdom work. Solomon understood this principle when he wrote, “a faithful envoy [another word for ambassador] brings healing” (Prov. 13:17). The privilege of bringing a spirit of reconciliation to others in the name of Christ is often given to those who have first been faithful in the little things.
- Ambassadors are Trustworthy. Another way of phrasing this trait is to say an ambassador is worthy of trust. Trust, like faithfulness, is an earned commodity, and for ambassadors who primarily do their work apart from the one who appointed them, they must have the implicit trust of their president, prime minister, king, etc. First Corinthians 4:2 says, “It is required of stewards that one be found trustworthy.”
- Ambassadors are Entrusted. Ambassadors are given a mission and have a clear understanding that they are not supposed to represent their own worldviews, ideas or philosophies, but those of their king, ruler, or president. The same holds true for us: “But just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not as pleasing men but God, who examines our hearts” (1 Thes. 2:4). In a ministry of reconciliation, we have been entrusted, not with our own initiatives and plans, but with the Gospel of Christ, to faithfully represent the kingdom and principles of a sovereign God. Equipped with both grace and truth, we must therefore endeavor to represent Him well at all times. Our words and actions at home, the workplace, in school or church, and where we live, all matter greatly.
- Ambassadors are Dignified. Ambassadors are typically viewed as dignified individuals of high character. This implies they have the willingness, ability, and humility to “rise and walk above the fray” by not allowing the self-serving desires or the ambitions of others deter them from their sense of mission. Merriam-Webster defines character as a “mark or distinctive quality; ethical traits individualizing or distinguishing a person or group; moral excellence; or a device placed on an object as an indication of ownership, origin or relationship.” Paul indicates that the believer, “belongs to Christ” (1 Cor. 3:23), and if you think about it, because we belong to Him, we are the “object” of His love. He has placed Himself within us through the agency of the Holy Spirit to indicate both ownership and relationship. Therefore, “In all things show yourself to be an example of good deeds, with purity in doctrine, dignified, sound in speech which is beyond reproach” (Tit. 2:7-8a).
- Ambassadors are Wise. Have you ever noticed that ambassadors are usually careful and deliberate in their choice of words and in their demeanor? They understand how and when they speak is just as important as the content of the message. If we want to tell others about balanced living, healthy relationships, biblical principles, or introduce them to the King of Kings, we must possess the necessary wisdom in how to share it, for, “the tongue of the wise makes knowledge acceptable” (Prov. 15:2), and “A wise man will hear and increase in learning, and a man of understanding will acquire wise counsel” (Prov. 1:5).
- Ambassadors are Sent Out. Finally, ambassadors are commissioned to go somewhere and represent their country and its leaders. Jesus modeled this reality when, “. . . He called the twelve together, and gave them power and authority over all the demons and to heal diseases. And He sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God, and to perform healing” (Lk. 9:1-2). The truth is, ultimately, this present earth is not our home. Heaven is our home and God is our King. Just as He was sent into the world, so He now sends us. Some to their families… some to their schools or places of work… some to their local neighborhoods and communities… some to positions in government… and some, like ships that set sail, to foreign lands with different cultures and peoples. Harbors are safe places, yet they are not what ships were built for.
Everywhere ambassadors go in the world, every place they step foot, is considered to be the sovereign territory of their home country. This is why the killing of an ambassador is often viewed as an act of war. As Christians, everywhere we set foot—as salt and light—becomes the sovereign territory of God Himself. He grants authority to us as believers and this authority is always greater and more effective than the exploitation of power. Otherwise, our diplomatic immunity (the authority to overcome evil with good) becomes diplomatic impunity (spiritual pride and arrogance).
Francois de Callieres, ambassador at large for France in the late 1600s, and heralded for refining the art of diplomacy, articulates an almost biblical view of a person’s calling as an ambassador:
He must therefore divest himself, in some measure, of all his own sentiments, and put himself in the place of a Prince with whom he treats; he must as it were transform himself into this person, take up his opinion of things, and his inclinations, and then, after he has known the Prince to be what he is, let him say thus within himself: If I were in the place of this Prince, with the same power, the same passions, and the same prejudices, what effect would those things produce in me which I have to lay before him? (de Callieres, 1708).
Christian servant leaders also derive their power and ministerial authority from a “Prince,” the Prince of Peace. By God’s grace, may we hold that honor in high esteem at all times.
Eric Scalise, PhD, currently serves as Senior Vice President and Chief Strategy Officer (CSO) with Hope for the Heart. He is also the President of LIV Consulting, LLC, the former Senior Vice President for the American Association of Christian Counselors (AACC) and former Department Chair for Counseling Programs at Regent University. Dr. Scalise is a Licensed Professional Counselor and a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist with over 42 years of clinical and professional experience in the mental health field, and he served six years on the Virginia Board of Counseling under two governors. Specialty areas include professional/pastoral stress and burnout, combat trauma and PTSD, marriage and family issues, grief and loss, addictions and recovery, leadership development, and lay counselor training. He is a published author, adjunct professor at several Christian universities, conference speaker, and frequently works with organizations, clinicians, ministry leaders, and churches on a variety of issues.