Not that long ago, I was sorting through a drawer full of odds and ends—items long forgotten—and a small clasped envelope drew my attention. When I opened it up, a flood of memories swept over me. The envelope contained all of my father’s passports. He was a diplomat with the U.S. State Department, and as his son, I was given the opportunity to have a front row seat to the intriguing world of international diplomacy, living abroad, and interacting with other cultures.
My father’s first embassy was in Tehran—not long after the CIA helped put the Shah into power in 1953. He met and married my mother there and six kids later, our family finally returned to the United States where he finished his distinguished career in the nation’s capital. I was born in Nicosia, Cyprus (I think that’s why I like the Apostle Barnabas so much – he was a Cypriot). Having also lived in Singapore, Bolivia, Germany, and Iceland, I find myself deeply grateful for some amazing life experiences… not to mention always doing well in world geography (smile).
During a high school government class, I wrote a paper on what it means to be an ambassador, and I interviewed my father for the assignment. Years later, after I had come to Christ, I found the paper in a box of old school work that my mother had saved—moms do this sort of thing. What amazed me were the biblical parallels that came through the interview with my Dad, concepts I had never really seen (or understood) before.
The title of ambassador is actually derived from a Celtic word that means, “servant” and was first applied in this manner by Charles V in the middle of the 16th century. Another word used years ago defined the person as a plenipotentiary, or one who is, “a diplomatic agent vested with full power to transact business.” You and I are no different. All authority in heaven and on the earth was given to Jesus (Matt. 28:18) and He vested it with us so that we may transact His business.
In a world where there is so much brokenness and pain, we see marriages struggling, families in pain, lives and relationships being torn apart. I believe the concept of ministry falls under the umbrella of reconciliation—though there are many facets and variations. This is a view Paul reinforces to the Corinthians: “Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation” (2 Cor. 5:18-19). Paul then lays out God’s design to accomplish this purpose when he says, “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God, were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” (vs. 20).
What about you and me? Do we see ourselves as God’s ambassadors… to our family members and loved ones, to our spouses and children, our coworkers, friends and neighbors… those who need to experience reconciliation? Some people we know may need to be reconciled with God, some may need to be reconciled with others, and frankly, some may need to be reconciled with themselves. If the Church desires to move closer toward a more just and compassionate society, it must take place one life at a time through people who are willing to stand up and be counted. Christians are uniquely positioned to demonstrate the affirmation of life, the upholding of human dignity, the cultivation of love for others, and the sacrifice and service of self-denial. The truth is that we have been given a wonderful opportunity to represent Christ as His ambassadors, so let’s take a closer look at some of the qualities and character traits that define this important role.
Everywhere ambassadors go in the world, every place they step foot, is considered to be the sovereign territory of the country they came from. This is why the killing of an ambassador is often viewed as an act of war. As Christians, everywhere we set foot—as salt and light—becomes the sovereign territory of God Himself. He grants authority to us as believers and this authority is always greater and more effective than the exploitation of power. Otherwise, our diplomatic immunity (the authority to overcome evil with good), becomes diplomatic impunity (spiritual pride and arrogance).
Francois de Callieres, ambassador at large for France in the late 1600’s, and heralded for refining the art of diplomacy, articulates an almost biblical view of a person’s calling as an ambassador:
He must therefore divest himself, in some measure, of all his own sentiments, and put himself in the place of a Prince with whom he treats; he must as it were transform himself into this person, take up his opinion of things, and his inclinations, and then, after he has known the Prince to be what he is, let him say thus within himself: If I were in the place of this Prince, with the same power, the same passions, and the same prejudices, what effect would those things produce in me which I have to lay before him? (de Callieres, 1708).
Christian servant leaders also derive their power and ministerial authority from a “Prince,” the Prince of Peace. By God’s grace, may we hold that honor in high esteem at all.
Eric Scalise, Ph.D., LPC, LMFT, is the President of LIV Enterprises & Consulting, LLC and CEO for the Alignment Association, LLC. He is the former Vice President of the 50,000-member American Association of Christian Counselors (AACC), as well as the former Department Chair for Counseling Programs at Regent University in Virginia Beach, VA. He is an adjunct professor and the Senior Editor for both AACC and the Congressional Prayer Caucus Foundation. Dr. Scalise is a Licensed Professional Counselor and a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist with 36 years of clinical and professional experience in the mental health field. Specialty areas include professional and pastoral stress and burnout, compassion fatigue, mood disorders, marriage and family issues, combat trauma and PTSD, addictions and recovery, crisis response, grief and loss, leadership development, life coaching, and lay counselor training. He is a published author with Zondervan, Baker Books, and Harvest House, is a national and international conference speaker, and frequently works with organizations, clinicians, ministry leaders, and churches on a variety of issues. Dr. Scalise and his wife, Donna, have been married for 36 years, have twin sons who are combat veterans serving in the U.S. Marine Corps, and three grandchildren.