By Pastor Stephen Hess –
Recently we began a new sermon series at Highview called “Resident Aliens.” During this series we are exploring what it means to live as a Christian in today’s world. In one sense we are “residents” of this world. We live here, we work here, and we raise our families here. However, in another sense we are “aliens” who do not belong to this world. Rather, we are also foreigners who recognize that our true citizenship lies somewhere else—in the Kingdom of God. This reality reminds me of another Biblical image for the Christian life: an ambassador.
I have always been fascinated by the role of ambassadors in our government. Ambassadors are some of the highest ranking officials who represent our government, however, what makes them unique is that they don’t live in the United States. The role of a U.S. Ambassador is to represent our country while living in another nation. They play a crucial role in promoting diplomatic relations and protecting American interests around the globe. Quite often, an ambassador will be stationed at an “embassy”, which functions as an official organization or outpost of the United States in a foreign land.
As I have reflected more and more on this I have come to the conclusion that the image of an ambassador is a great analogy for our place as Christians in the world today. In 2 Corinthians 5 Paul uses the language of an ambassador to refer to Christians. He says, “In Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us” (2 Cor. 5:19-20). According to Paul, all Christians are ambassadors. However, as ambassadors our purpose is not to represent an earthly country or nation; rather, our purpose is to represent Christ and his Kingdom to the world around us.
When we adopt this perspective, it has huge implications for the way we understand our place in this world. First of all, if Christians are ambassadors then that means we should see ourselves as “foreigners” no matter where we live. Just as United States ambassadors live and work in foreign lands where they are not citizens, Christians live and work in foreign lands because we recognize that our true citizenship is in Christ’s eternal kingdom (Phil. 3:20). Instead of seeing our primary identity in terms of the kingdoms of this world (i.e. America), we should understand our primary identity in terms of the Kingdom of God. This means that every day when a Christian wakes up he/she should ask: How can I best represent Jesus and his Kingdom to the world today?
This also has massive implications for how we understand our churches. If, according to Scripture, all Christians are ambassadors then this means our churches should function as “embassies.” Churches all across the world are like outposts of the Kingdom of God in foreign lands. When we gather together as the body of Christ we come together with other ambassadors to worship, grow, and send one another out to represent Christ. We may be “strangers and exiles” on this earth (Heb. 11:13), but we are not alone. In every place where you find a Biblical church there is a tangible manifestation of Christ’s Kingdom at work in the world.
We know from the Scriptures that Christ’s eternal Kingdom will not be fully established until he returns to make all things new. However, this reality does not mean that Christ’s Kingdom isn’t present and breaking into the world right now. The primary way that we see Christ’s Kingdom at work in these present days is through his ambassadors and embassies. As the Scripture says, God has entrusted to us the message of reconciliation and Christ is making his appeal through us (2 Cor. 5:19-20).