“Ambassador For Christ”

Jul 5, 2020

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Posted by Elk Grove Presbyterian Church on Sunday, July 5, 2020

The Scripture

2 Corinthians 5:11-21

11 Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade others. What we are is plain to God, and I hope it is also plain to your conscience. 12 We are not trying to commend ourselves to you again, but are giving you an opportunity to take pride in us, so that you can answer those who take pride in what is seen rather than in what is in the heart. 13 If we are “out of our mind,” as some say, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. 14 For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. 15 And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.

16 So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 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. 21 God made him who had no sin to be sinfor us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Read the Sermon

Paul says the people of Corinth are to be “Ambassadors for Christ.”  This raised the question for me of just what did he mean by saying this?  How can one be an ambassador for Christ?  Of course, this led me to thinking about ambassadors and their role as diplomats here and now in our country and all over the world.

So, I did a little research and found that the main function of diplomats is to represent the country they are citizens of and protect the interest of their homeland while serving overseas.  They are to be advocates and also negotiators using their skills in building and sustaining relationships with those from other countries.  Ambassadors learn the language of the people so they can understand them and know how best to connect with them so they can act as a bridge to help others know about our country. Or the country they represent.  

Now Paul would understand the word “Ambassador” in a little different way.  According to Barclay, ambassadors during the Roman empire served to arrange the terms of peace with people who have just been conquered.  They determined the boundaries of the new province and drew up a constitution for its new administration.

Ultimately they were responsible for bringing others into the family of the Roman Empire.  Keeping this ancient understanding of the role of an ambassador in mind, Paul now takes this and applies it to the life of the new Christians.  But instead of bringing people into the Roman Empire, Paul is urging those in Corinth to claim their place and role as citizens of the Kingdom of God.  And as a citizen, one is to be an ambassador who can bring others into God’s very empire so they can be members of God’s family.

As ambassadors, they are to live out a “ministry of reconciliation”.  This is where Paul’s thinking is a bit complex and yet if we break it down I think we can gain great understanding into just what this means.  Paul explains this in verse 18 where he says,  “All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation;  that is, in Christ, God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us.”  Put this more simply, Paul is saying that God has made things right between humanity and God through Christ.   This gap that existed between God and humans has been resolved, or restored through Christ.  Therefore, as members of God’s family, we all are called to be ministers of reconciliation for others.

What does it mean to be a minister of reconciliation?  As Paul already told us, it’s about being an ambassador.  Let’s go back and think about this…ambassadors learn to speak the language of those living in the country they are serving.  They live among them, eat the same foods, get to know the people.  Ambassadors learn to understand the local culture and their beliefs.

An ambassador ultimately builds relationships and becomes friends with those from foreign lands.  But we have to go back and remember Paul’s perspective, he sees an ambassador as someone who comes into a defeated country, into the lives of defeated people and helps them find a new orientation.  An ambassador helps the downtrodden, those who have been broken, demoralized, beaten down to find new life in Christ.  They are to enter into a new family…God’s family!

Ella Cara Deloria a Native American who was the recorder of Native American oral history tells her story in the book “Forgiveness” by Marjorie Thompson.  Some of you might remember this story.

A young man in the tribe had been murdered, and his enraged relatives were gathered to plan revenge.  The eldest male in the clan listened to them talk out their aggrieved feelings and vindictive intentions, repeating to them what he heard them say.  He then smoked quietly and calmly for a while.  Finally, he spoke again to say that there was a better way—a harder but better way that they would take.  He told them to go home, look over their possessions, and bring back the one thing they prized most.   “The gifts you bring shall go to the murderer, for a token of our sincerity and our purpose. Though he has hurt us, we shall make him a relative, in place of the one who is not here.  Was the dead your brother?  Then this man shall be your brother.  As for me, the dead was my nephew.  Therefore, his slayer shall be my nephew.  And from now on he shall be one of us.  We shall regard him as though he were our dead kinsman returned to us.”   At the appointed time, the murderer was brought into the council tepee and given the peace pipe with these words:  ”Smoke, with these your new kinsmen seated here.  For they have chosen to take you to themselves in place of the one who is not here…It is their desire that henceforth you shall go in and out among them without fear.  By these presents which they have brought here for you, they would have you know that whatever love and compassion they had for him is now yours, forever.”  Deeply moved, the slayer began to weep. The narrator then remarks that “this man will surely prove himself the best possible kinsman, given the high price of his redemption.”

Now we will never know if this story is just a legend or a true occurrence, but the moral of this story hits us deeply at our core…we face directly the cost of seeking reconciliation.  And this is what Paul is calling the people of Corinth to do.  The kinsmen not only followed the path of forgiveness but beyond forgiveness to reconciliation.  You and me, I doubt we will ever be faced with the decision to do what those kinsmen were asked to do.  But we are compelled to seek reconciliation in broken relationships, in grievances experienced, in those we have placed outside of our circle of family and friends.

We must recognize that the way of reconciliation is the harder way, and it is the path we are called to follow.  It is the path that requires a powerful inner struggle to master pride, anger, revenge or anything that comes in the way of infecting relationships we have with others…especially those who seem to live in a different country (you know what I mean by this!) people who are really, really different, people who don’t understand us, people who we would rather not include in our family!   As ambassadors we must learn the language of others, speaking the truth about our faith in Christ and bringing others into our family.  Reconciliation means restoring relationships, living together as brothers and sisters in Christ.

The high price of our redemption has already been paid!   My friends, we are Ambassadors for Christ!

Amen