One of my favorite passages in Scripture comes at the close of the fifth chapter of 2 Corinthians. It highlights both God’s transformative work in our lives and his missional calling on us in the world.
17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
I have always found it a bit amazing that God chooses to transform rebellious, sinful and wayward people into new creations who he then calls to be his ambassadors. An ambassador is one who both represents for a kingdom or nation and carries the message of that realm to others. As Jesus’ church we represent the Kingdom of God while living among the kingdoms of this world and we bring the saving gospel message to those around. That message is that God forgives sin, removes guilt, turns away wrath, frees us from his just condemnation, makes us clean and makes us part of his family. This is all through the work of Jesus on the cross. God saves us from sin, death and hell and creates a new community out of such people. In light of our calling and message, I find it puzzling that Jesus’ followers can sometimes be AWOL from this mission. The following are seven simple ways I think we can become AWOL Ambassadors.
We Won’t Leave Our Own Country
First, if we won’t leave our comforts to go to others we will be AWOL Ambassadors. We can like it too much at home, where we think it is safe, where we don’t have to leave our preferences, our comforts and actually be among people who are different from us. We like our world where everyone looks the same, talks the same and is easy to be with. We would rather stay here than go there for the sake of the gospel. AWOL.
We Don’t Like Other People
Second, if we don’t love other people we will remain AWOL from our calling. After all, “they” have different beliefs, opinions, and habits than we do. “They” might offend my sensibilities and their lives are messy; I really do not want to love them. In fact, I pretty much don’t like those folk. If we become involved with those outside of the church they might inconvenience us and mess up our world. Thank God Jesus did not think this way or he would have never taken on flesh, walked among us and died for us.
We are Bringing the Wrong Message
Third, if an ambassador brings the wrong message, she will be AWOL from her duty. So many people are hearing a message from the church that is not the message of the Bible. God doesn’t like people, neither do we, we want to take over the government? This is what some people “hear” from the church today in America. Is that really our message? Or others teach that God is open minded, tolerant and doesn’t care about sin and evil doing. Is this really our message? Our message is that God is holy and is the righteous judge of sin and sinners AND he saves them by his grace through the work of Jesus on the cross. Are we bringing the wrong message? If so, we are AWOL in our ambassadorship delivering the messages of men as if they were the message of God.
Representing the Wrong Kingdom
Fourth, an ambassador for Jesus represents his Kingdom not the Kingdom of George Bush or Barak Obama. Christians can become AWOL when they represent for party politics as if that was the Kingdom of Jesus. I am not saying that our message and allegiance to Jesus will not have implications for our political philosophies and involvement. I am saying that an Ambassador who thinks Jesus would only vote Republican or Democratic or Libertarian or Green or whatever is already AWOL. Remember what our King said to us “My Kingdom is not of this world.” (John 18:33-38)
We Fear Peoples’ Opinions
Fifth, Ambassadors who grow fearful of people can start changing the message and misrepresenting the King. There is a reason why the saying “don’t shoot the messenger” has become a bit proverbial. Messengers do get shot you know. Throughout the ages Jesus and his gospel have been polarizing eliciting joy and wonder as well as ridicule and guile. When people mock you as a messenger or disregard the message you preach will you adjust the gospel to tickle the ears of this world? (2 Timothy 4:1-5) Will you continue to reach out to others and share the gospel? If you give way to fear, you will go AWOL. Jesus told us that all authority on heaven and on earth have been given to him and that we preach good news on his orders (Matthew 24:14, Matthew 28:18-20). We need to put a cup on and stay in the fight even when it gets tough; we must not compromise.
Not Realizing the Importance of Our Call
Sixth, an ambassador who does not realize the importance of his call will neglect it and go AWOL. God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the wise. God has chosen us for this high calling to be his ambassadors. This was his choice to use us. God does not have a “B team” in his Kingdom and calls all his people to represent him and share the gospel. If we forget this we might despise ourselves and feel unusable by the King. This might just keep us out of the game. God in his wisdom saves and calls whomever he chooses; we should joyfully respond and stay in the game.
We are not Equipped and Trained
Seventh, ambassadors can be AWOL when they simply do not know what do to in the mission. Thankfully, God has given us apostles, prophets, pastor-teachers, evangelists to equip the church for the work of the ministry (Ephesians 4:11-16). A church should always be training ambassadors to represent the King and preach his message. We should be a people proclaiming the gospel with our lips and refelcting it in good works. Churches which leave this calling are themselves AWOL. When a church no longer believes that Jesus is King and that his gospel is the only hope for sinners then it is no longer an embassy or outpost for Jesus. It is sadly a dying relic of a bygone age. Church leader, don’t be AWOL, the implications are massive and you are accountable to the King (Hebrews 13:17, James 3:1).
Today, I pray you walk in the conscious realization of your ambassadorship and that you joyfully represent for Jesus. As we share his message we will see the gospel’s power to save. God is faithful and is always calling new ambassadors to his team who wish to live for his glory and the good of others by extending hope through the gospel of Jesus Christ. Are you in? Are you AWOL? Let’s repent and get back to work.