Life as a new believer can be a little confusing and a little overwhelming.
What I have discovered is a mix of Christian culture and human tendencies which create the perfect storm for misunderstanding our role as ambassadors for Christ. One reason behind this confusion is our human desire to put things into categories, to draw lines, to have clear-cut roles. For most of us, sharing our faith is an awkward experience which we try to avoid. In western Christian culture, many believers are exposed to the idea of missionaries who visit far off lands who come to their church to raise money and to present their work of advancing the Gospel.
Commonly Held Misconceptions
In mainstream American culture, there seems to be this pervasive thought that missionaries exist solely to convert non-believing individuals to join their religion. For many, they liken Christian missionaries to those who try to convince others to join a weird cult. I liken this idea to the theme found in many science fiction movies where aliens only come to visit earth to kidnap human beings to bring them back to their motherland. For some religions this might be the case, but for those who have experienced the love of Jesus Christ, this couldn’t be further from the truth.
For new believers and even many seasoned veterans in following Jesus (the way), it is easy for us to get confused about our role. Believers often get caught up in acting the correct way or trying to earn their keep. Sometimes believers feel that they need to point out the flaws of nonbelievers and keep record of the behavior of every believer in their church. Many are sure to stay away from unbelievers for fear they might catch whatever spiritual cuties they might have. We find every way possible to over-complicate what God never meant to be complicated. The Bible makes clear our role in the Kingdom of God and that we are to serve as ambassadors for Christ to our world.
Understanding our role as believers in the Kingdom of God is crucial to successfully following Jesus. The common definition of a missionary as defined by Merriam-Webster’s Learning Dictionary lays out how the world sees who missionaries are and what they should be doing.
According to Merriam-Webster’s Learning Dictionary
As I mentioned in my post titled, Redefining Our View of Missions and Missionaries, this definition comes with some assumptions.
To Be a Missionary One Must:
- Be sent to a foreign country.
- Do religious work.
- Be there to help the sick or poor.
- Be convincing people to join a religion.
We Are Ambassadors For Christ
As we step into our roles as ambassadors for Christ, it is important that we understand what exactly that means, so we do not get caught up in pursuit of the wrong things. We represent Christ to those around us who do not know Jesus. Ambassadors present the message of reconciliation to the world. We live in such a way that brings honor to God and draws people to Jesus. Believers stand up for the oppressed, we defend the orphans, and fight for widows. Christ Followers share generously what God has blessed us with. We love our neighbors. We learn to see others the way God sees them not the way the world looks upon people.
The Role of An Ambassador:
- To be a physical representation of Christ in our world. (1 Corinthians 11:1)
- Show the love of Christ (Romans 13:8-10)
- Share the message(Good News) of reconciliation to God through Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:18-20)
- Give to those in need (2 Corinthians 1:3-4, Romans 12:13, Luke 3:10-11)
A Physical Representation of Christ
The challenge for us to be a physical representation of Jesus Christ in our world is a loaded one. It is intimidating for sure. One of the most practical examples that we are to physically represent Christ is seen in 1 Corinthians 11:1. In this verse, Paul, who wrote a good portion of the New Testament, is calling on followers of Jesus to “Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.” The charge here is not calling us to be perfect, because even Paul was not perfect. It was not calling us to be a religious scholar, even though Paul could be consider one if any of Jesus’ followers could. Paul is not calling all followers of Jesus to quit their job and devote all of our waking hours to ministry.
The New Century Version (NCV) says that we are to “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” While this is still a bit broad, to me this is more approachable. Still I wanted more direction and found Ephesians 5:2-5 AMP which seemed to fill in many of the gaps.
There is a lot to process here, all important, but the part which stuck out most to me was “walk continually in love…” I am not saying that we should ignore all of the others, but if there is any place to start, I would start with love.
Show & Share the Love of Christ
Sharing the love of Christ is about sharing God’s message of reconciliation with our world. There are a variety of ways to go about doing this. In the United States, many tend to think of people going door-to-door having awkward conversations on front doorsteps. Others might picture handing out a pamphlet or tract which presents a portion of the Gospel. Neither of these stereotypical ideas are wrong, but I would encourage you to expand your mindset of what sharing the Gospel might look like. Be willing to listen to and follow God’s prompting in presenting God’s message of reconciliation.
Conversion is Not Our Goal
While I cannot speak for other religions, I can tell you that convincing people to join our particular church or our flavor of Christianity is not the goal. For those who have recently experienced his love for the first time, there is an overwhelming desire to share this love with anyone and everyone they meet. We should not lose sight of this pure and heart-felt desire. As time goes on and this same person grows closer to God, their approach to sharing changes as they understand their unique role in sharing the gospel.
It is easy to get caught up in the results of sharing God’s message of reconciliation. What we often need to remind ourselves is that we are to be obedient in sharing and leave the results to God. I love the reminder found in 1 Corinthians 3:6.
Sharing With Those In Need
One of the most common stereotypes with Christian missionaries is providing basic necessities to people in third world countries. My goal here in listing common stereotypes is not to poke fun or diminish the heart behind the stereotype. What I do hope to accomplish, is to help readers think outside of those stereotypes. I wholeheartedly believe we should continue giving in this way, but I want to look at those closer to us who are in need. Living in the richest country in the world, it is easy to overlook those right under our noses.
What makes it challenging here in the United States are a group who takes advantage of well-meaning Americans by posing as homeless or jobless individuals to make a quick dollar. This group sews distrust by posing as poor and helpless when they are anything but modern con artists. This causes those who might want to give to someone on the street corner to second guess the act of giving. This group of thieves have made it more difficult for the poor and those seeking to help anyone in need.
Get Creative In Your Approach
What I would encourage in response to this strange dynamic is to listen to God’s prompting to give. God will not mislead you. Second I would look for ways to give strategically which will impact those you have a heart to serve. Another option if you encounter those in your path often, keep non-perishable goods with you which will bless those in need. Create care packages with items which seem basic, but have a big impact. With a little creativity, we can continue to show the love of Christ through our generosity.
‘And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!” For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.’
‘All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 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. ‘
‘So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!” ‘
‘Either way, Christ’s love controls us. Since we believe that Christ died for all, we also believe that we have all died to our old life. He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them.’
‘Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ. ‘
‘All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. ‘
‘When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality.’
‘The crowds asked, “What should we do?” John replied, “If you have two shirts, give one to the poor. If you have food, share it with those who are hungry.”’
‘Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. ‘