Listen Like an Ambassador


Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 15; 147:1-11, 1 Kings 22:1-28, 1 Corinthians 2:1-13, Matthew 4:18-25

War – whether it be physical or cultural – is a failure of diplomacy. Diplomats bridge the gap between cultures whose differences might otherwise seem irreconcilable except through violent conflict. No embassy is a one-person operation. Usually the ambassador is supported by a staff of cultural, legal, press, military, and other diplomatic attachés. If we are citizens of heaven traveling in a foreign land, we need to determine whether we are tourists or representatives of a higher authority. If we are public about our faith, we have chosen to serve as representatives. That thought should be intimidating, but it doesn’t need to be, if we are observant of those who have served successfully before us.

One of the most important diplomatic skills – arguably the most important – is the ability to listen. When Paul first visited the Corinthians, he did not pretend to have all the answers to their problems. Instead he “decided to know nothing among [them] except Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” Paul knew that the mission of diplomacy is not to dominate and to impose, but to understand and relate. He didn’t even attempt to impress the Corinthians, but approached them “in weakness and in fear and in much trembling.” This may not sound like an auspicious beginning, but in the end he delivered his message successfully and established the church in Corinth.

Paul succeeded because he lived his core mission with integrity. People perceived no difference between his words and his life. Because Paul’s message was one of salvation through redemption rather than perfection, his flaws did not undermine that message. As Christian “attachés,” we should find two important lessons here. First, we should never present ourselves as perfected or somehow better than non-Christians. Otherwise, the first time we cut someone off in traffic while sporting a Jesus-fish bumper sticker, our message becomes one of hypocrisy. Second, we need to be serious about living lives that reflect the Spirit within us. Again this doesn’t mean unattainable perfection, but a heart full of the love, peace, mercy, and humility of Christ. A humble example is worth more than a million lofty instructions.

Comfort: Perfection is the enemy of progress.

Challenge: Each day, reflect on how your example could be better.

Prayer: God of the journey, give me ears to hear and words of love.

Discussion: What is the difference between diplomacy and politics?

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