From a comment a couple of days ago: “…some people make it seem like it’s peaceful and the Christian version of God is all about love and forgiveness while other Christians make it look like being Christian just makes you hateful and arrogant….”
Who is God and who is Jesus Christ? Or perhaps it is better to ask it this way — who is the God that people will learn about from us? It has often been said by Christians that “we are the only Christ, we are the only Bible, some people will ever know.” I’m not enthusiastic about the statement, because Jesus Christ is perfect, and the Bible is perfectly true, and I’m not close to measuring up to that, nor is any other Christian. But there’s a valid point to the statement. The Bible says we are “ambassadors for Christ”. My words, and my very life, should be telling people the truth about Him.
OUR WORDS MUST SHOW JESUS CHRIST TRULY
Jesus said, when He was praying to the Father in John 17, that He was sending His disciples out into the world, and that people would believe in Him through their words:
18 As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world. 19 And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth. 20 Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; 21 That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.
I preached on this passage on Sunday, and maybe I’ll get a summary of the message posted, but for now I want to focus on the responsibility of our words. He was talking specifically about the twelve apostles here, but the truth applies just as well to us. If people are to believe through the words of His followers, then they need to learn about the real Jesus, not a counterfeit Christ, through our words.
OUR ACTIONS MUST SHOW JESUS CHRIST TRULY
Verse 21 emphasises the unity that Christians are to have, and we see that in another place where Jesus is teaching His disciples directly, John 13:34-35:
A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.
This says that people around us are going to measure whether we are true disciples of Jesus by our actions, and especially by how well Christians love each other. They will measure Jesus and our faithfulness to Him by our actions. People need to learn about the real Jesus, not a counterfeit Christ, through our actions.
II Corinthians 5:20 Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.
When I read the Lutheran commentator, C.H. Lenski, on this passage, I liked it so much I decided to get his entire New Testament commentary.
Here there is food for thought for all ambassadors today. How dare we alter, change, reduce the word committed to us? …. An ambassador is absolutely responsible to his king. Woe to him that forgets that!
So if we are responsible to our King, what is His message? He is beseeching (a word rarely used today, but the sense is of begging or pleading). Lenski again:
Here is the God of heaven and of earth and Christ, His Son who by His death reconciled all to God, and here are their high ambassadors representing God in Christ. On the other hand are transgressors (v. 19). And lo, these ambassadors are sent by God and Christ to beg these transgressors: “Be reconciled!”
It is God’s heart for sinners to be reconciled to Him. II Peter 3:9 says God “is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”
This is the message that is directly linked to our role as ambassadors for Christ — that people must be reconciled to God, that they can be reconciled to God, and that He earnestly wants them to be reconciled to Him, so much that He sends His royal ambassadors to beseech or plead with them to do so.
If we claim to represent Christ, our message (whether by word or deed) must be consistent with our ambassadorial role. We must communicate A) the need for reconciliation with God, B) His provision for that, and C) His great desire for it. Anything that distracts from His message in its entirety is inappropriate. If we communicate something that is contrary to His message, it would have been better if we had remained silent.
This is why it is not enough to be right, we need to be right rightly. (I’ve banged on about this before. ;)) It isn’t just about being right about something that matters, but we need to talk about it in a way that reflects how God sees it, and in the context of our entire ambassadorial message.
Let’s reiterate those again:
- The need for reconciliation with God
- His provision for reconciliation
- His great desire for reconciliation
Sometimes, people will emphasise the first, and neglect the second, and leave out the third entirely. They can end up sounding like this description: “other Christians make it look like being Christian just makes you hateful and arrogant.”
Sometimes, people emphasise the third and downplay or ignore the first, with the result that they neglect the importance of the second. They can end up sounding like this: “the Christian version of God is all about love and forgiveness.” That is ok as far as it goes, but too often the “forgiveness” part is watered down because we don’t want to deal with the uncomfortable bit about how much we need to be forgiven, to change. So Christians who sound like this, far too often, will downplay, again, God’s provision for reconciliation, what God did so we can be reconciled to Him.
We don’t understand forgiveness unless we understand our need to be forgiven. We don’t really understand either of those until we understand what God did. His solution to our problem is what helps us see the problem clearly, and also helps us to really understand what His love and forgiveness are all about.
More to come….
An application point.
I said a couple days ago in a comment that I wanted to say as little as possible about Fred Phelps and Westboro Baptist “church”. I see in the news that they are planning to come to Scotland, and David Robertson, a Free Church minister in Dundee, has spoken about them in the Dundee Courier.
Rev. Robertson says they are “just publicity seekers.” I don’t profess to know the real motives of the Westboro people, so I would have left that part unsaid, but other than that I would generally be in agreement with his comments. That’s not why I’m commenting on it right now, though.
In the main post, I gave three points an ambassador for Christ should communicate — the need for reconciliation, God’s provision for it, and God’s desire for it. I don’t know the full details of everything the Westboro people say, but I know what message is coming across. It is a somewhat twisted version of the first point, the second point isn’t being communicated at all, and they are directly contradicting the third point.
So why did I bury this in a comment, instead of putting it in the main post? Pretty simple, really. I don’t think I have any readers from Westboro. This isn’t really about Westboro, but for every believer, about how I myself am doing. We could all point our fingers together at them and say, “They are horrible,” but that (while true) is of little practical benefit. Enough has been said for everyone to know that those people don’t represent all Christians. It is incumbent on each of us to make sure we represent Christ rightly — and people will see the difference. If all we do is talk about Fred Phelps, we aren’t thinking about how we need to do better.