Just a few days ago, Greg and I both wrote a reflection about a photo tweeted around the web depicting young Egyptian Christians linking arms in protection of Muslims praying behind them. A common theme ran through both our posts—that such a display of love demonstrated quite poignantly the love of Christ for humanity. It was a sacrificial love, and in both of our reflections we touched on what we felt to be one of the most important aspects of their actions: that they were representing this love to the world.
The Muslim community in Egypt, who began this exchange of prayer protection over Christmas, are now once again returning this act of love by protecting the Christians while they pray. One act of kindness bore another.
Having grown up in the church, I often hear the term “ambassadors of Christ” used to describe Christians’ social identity. Indeed, Greg and I have even employed the term at various times on this very site. Though perhaps a rather awkward way of referring to a Christian individual to modern ears, the concept makes a lot of sense, and has a lot to bear on interfaith interaction.
The expression itself comes from 2 Corinthians 5:20, which says:
“We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.”
These words (like usual) belong to St. Paul, who writes this in his second letter to the early church in Corinth. If you are like most introspective Christians, the question becomes: But what does it mean to be Christ’s ambassador, exactly?
Being ambassadors of Christ requires something more of us than simply attending church services or calling ourselves “Christian.” Instead it necessitates action, doing. The act of being an ambassador means representing another party—“represent” is a verb.
Though I touched on this briefly in my recent post on evangelism and interfaith work, and will address it again in our upcoming series that focuses on evangelism specifically, all I will say here is that these Egyptians demonstrated what it means to be an ambassador of Christ: they showed that they were willing to act on Christ’s behalf to bring peace into the world, to show the world what the Kingdom of God looks like.
I think the prominent New Testament scholar (and former Bishop of Durham, UK) NT Wright has the right idea regarding what it means to represent Christ as his ambassador. Essentially, he talks about the Kingdom of God as being on earth now, enacted through us as believers, as well as the Kingdom of God as a future event worthy of aspiration. This view makes a lot of sense when you look at Pauline theology (which Wright does a great deal) and understand that this rubric compels us to live a faith in action, a faith that moves here and now to represent the ideal that we hope for in heaven.
All of this is a protracted way of saying that interfaith cooperation presents a perfect opportunity to enact our faith, to live it as those Egyptians lived theirs (both Muslim and Christian). Indeed, interfaith cooperation is the very definition of ambassadorial work—representing Christ to those who do not share your religious tradition. How does the notion of representing Christ affect your life? Does it move you? Does it impact your actions? What does it look like, in your eyes, to be an Christ’s ambassador?
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Photo by sanja gjenero (http://www.sxc.hu/profile/lusi)