Tuesday Prayer: Ambassadorship

… in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect…
(1 Peter 3:15)

O Lord Our Righteousness, Your name truly is Holy – the Name above all other names. It is only by Your grace that we share in the righteousness of Your Son and not by anything we have done. This gift – Your righteousness – is a gift we could never earn even if we were given thousands of years to try. It is by Your hand and by the obedience of Your Son alone that we are given a chance to clothe ourselves in His righteousness and be called by His name.

As the world around us seems to spin out of control in a downward spiral of rage, argumentativeness, name-calling, and finger-pointing, remind us who we are in Christ. May we bear His name well in all we do, allowing His righteousness to guide our words, our thoughts, our entertainments, and all decisions whether small or large. Let us be good ambassadors and show us what it means to be always prepared to give an answer for the hope that is in us.  May we never forget to do so with gentleness and respect.

Keep our consciences clean, Lord, and forgive us when we have entered wrongly into debates with unbelievers and answered hostility and arrogance with more of the same. Though our intentions may be good, we too often get tripped up by our emotions and simply fuel the raging fire of panic and anger.

Instead, when we speak with those who do not know You, remind us that we were once blind, poor, and fatally sick in our sin before You saved us. The people who rage and fume, the people who seem to be at war against Your Church are not actually our enemy. They are deceived and pawns in the hands of the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.

With that in mind, help us to keep our sharpest discipline and judgement on the inside, directed at our own hearts and churches, just as Jesus had the sharpest words for the religious leaders of His time. When it comes to those outside the Church, let us share with them our genuine joy in the Good News of our own rescue.

Lord, teach us to walk so closely with You that every single response which falls from our lips is seasoned by Your Word and guided by Your wisdom. Help us not to become frantic or fearful as the darkness closes in but remind us that Jesus warned us it would happen. And yet, no matter how dark the world becomes – and it has been dark since the first man and woman sinned – our King is still the Light of the world. There is no darkness which can overcome You.

So help us to trust You, Lord. Guide us to peace and confidence in Christ, speaking the Gospel from a place of genuine trust and absolute conviction that Your word will do what You send it to do. You are faithful, Lord, and You will bring to completion Your own perfect plan. We can rest in that, cooperating with You as Your people and not falling into the mistake of blending with the culture around us.  Teach us to be proper ambassadors for You, appealing on behalf of Christ, “Be reconciled with God!”

Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
(2 Corinthians 5:20-21)

Diplomacy and Other Poetic Sentiments

Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.
Hebrews 12:14

ShowBirds-9

“With all my heart, I tolerate you.” 

Oddly enough, I have yet to see these words splashed in false gold-leaf across the front of a sappy floral greeting card.

When I consider the amount of airtime the word, “tolerance,” is given, I have to wonder why it has not yet received this high commendation of public approval in the sentiment department. For $3.99 or thereabouts, an average human can purchase a bit of folded paper in order to proclaim undying love and devotion, wish a friend a happy birthday, send all manner of random holiday greetings, or even express sympathy over the loss of a cat.

Yet the only “tolerance” cards I can find have been sardonic parodies meant for a laugh. I have yet to hear any young man blubbing out an ardent and passionate confession of tolerance for a woman or a furious teen shrieking, “I tolerate you!” at the top of her lungs to her life-ruining mother.

Tolerance, it would seem, is a bit inadequate as an emotion.

So what’s all the fuss? Oh, yes; I remember. Tolerance is supposed to pave the path to peace.

What a heartwarming image that evokes – a room full of people representing widely differing cultures, races, and viewpoints all tolerating one another with tender, brotherly toleration.

Or perhaps the scene might more accurately be described as a room filled with heads bent over a wide variety of electronic devices upon which people tap out their knee-jerk responses to a staggering volume of bullet-point, shock-and-awe headline sound bytes, because really there simply isn’t time in the day to process it all.

I guess that’s why the author of that ancient letter now titled “Hebrews” in English translations of the Bible felt the need to qualify his call to “strive for peace with everyone.”

Peace alone, it would seem, is also a bit inadequate.

For one thing, we are urged to “strive.” That alone tells us that achieving “peace with everyone” will not be easy. This is going to be a matter of good, old-fashioned blood, sweat, and tears… the most precious of which were shed some 2000-odd years ago upon one of the more heinous modes of public execution that my species has invented.

But I digress…

The point is that peace is not enough. We must also strive for holiness, because without that key ingredient, no one will see the Lord; they will only see the friendly neighbor or the pacifist.

I find it interesting to note that the admonition to strive for peace and for holiness comes immediately after a discussion of the importance of discipline in training and the author’s coaxing to “lift drooping hands and strengthen weak knees,” which in today’s vernacular may or may not be slightly akin to “man up” or “put on your big-girl panties.” I can’t be sure because I am not privy to the nuances of colloquial Koine Greek.

At any rate, the import is that peace and holiness are not easily achieved. In fact, I would postulate that it takes something very unearthly to attain either true peace or holiness ; nothing less than the very life and breath of God in us… or at least that’s how I understood the Messiah’s words, “apart from Me, you can do nothing.”

With all this in mind, I think I love the Complete Jewish Bible’s translation of Revelation 3:19 most of all because it so beautifully reflects the idea of expended effort (and ironically is written to the lukewarm Laodicean church):

As for me, I rebuke and discipline everyone I love; so exert yourselves, and turn from your sins!
Revelation 3:19, CJB

Exert yourselves, and turn from your sins…

Hmmm… it seems to me that some of this striving for peace and holiness stuff might require me to first expend some effort in a reversal of my own faults, flaws, and outright crimes. That puts some punch to the Lord’s statement about denying self and taking up crosses in order to follow Him. He certainly did not carry His cross to the Roman equivalent of Disneyland.

It could be that what the world needs most is not so much tolerance as it is a stout number of Christians willing to take a sober look in the mirror and Biblically evaluate how well the Kingdom ambassador peering back is doing in his or her representation of the Most High God.

Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.
2 Corinthians 5:20

Personally, I am humbled by that thought…