March 29, 2016 by J. Truett Glen
A month or so ago I presented a post about training our children to be ambassadors in a fallen and complex world. I gave some suggestions for nurturing them to have thick skin, and gracious hearts. I believe that we are entering a more violent time in world history, and a time that Christians will be increasingly persecuted at home and abroad. I hope my concerns do not materialize, but either way we need to understand what our role in the world is. Over the next several months I will be touching on various aspects of what it means to be a Kingdom ambassador, and ways to avoid compromise, fear, and apathy. As you read these posts, please feel free to respond with your own views on how to be faithful to our calling as followers of Christ.
Agents of Deconstruction:
The Spirit of God is not a respecter of institutional boundaries or cultural traditions. Thus the Gospel is deconstructive. It settles into hearts, communities, and organizations like a rising tide. Sometimes it easily washes away loosely held opinions, but much of its work consists in the slow erosion of hardened surfaces. The beauty of the Body of Christ, the Church, is that while the Gospel is working in us, it also works through us. Our ambassadorial role is certainly centered on reconciliation, but that reconciliation takes place through changed minds and changed hearts. Ezekiel’s prophecy to Israel continues to ring true to Christians today; “Thus says the Lord God, ‘For good reason they have made you desolate and crushed you from every side, that you would become a possession of the rest of the nations and you have been taken up in the talk and the whispering of the people” (Ez. 36:3) The Body of Christ has been dispersed among the nations because we have a role to play among the “talk and the whispering of the people.” We are not meant to settle in pockets of cultural “Christianity.” It’s our job to engage in conversation and deconstruct the lies that take hold of the hearts and minds of our neighbors. God is for us all, and Ezekiel articulates God’s word for us further down in chapter 36, “For, behold, I am for you, and I will turn to you, and you will be cultivated and sown” (36:9). As God speaks his cultivating voice in our own hearts, we partner with Christ to work the soil in the hearts of others.
Our deconstructive role holds nothing sacred except The Sacred. The foundation of the Spirit within us guides our discernment and critical engagement. The world wants one thing from us: Validation. Validation is a dangerous game for ambassadors. This foreign land wants our approval. This foreign land wants us to lie down in its bed and mingle in its ways. The ambassador cannot find himself in this condition and remain faithful. Officials from this foreign land we find ourselves in toast to our health, and then say, “isn’t what we have here better than where you are from?” And if we don’t know our kingdom very well, we are tempted to say, “why yes, it is!” But those ambassadors that spend time experiencing the present Kingdom of God…the one written in our relationship with Christ…those ambassadors know when to decline and push back the bribe. It’s hard…no doubt, especially since we actually use to be citizens of this foreign land. We remember the smell of its idols, and the taste of its sweets. We need to push back the familiar bribe and remember what true worth feels like. We know the sound of deep calling out to deep. We know the “righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith.”
That’s the beautiful deconstructive role the gospel plays out in human relationships. The deep within us tests all things, looking for the deep in others. It recognizes the shallow façade and names it as such. But it is necessary for us to live in the culture in order for the gospel to do its work through us. There will be times we can participate whole-heartedly in the ways of the culture, but then there will be times that our witness will be one of refusal. Both types of engagement speak to who we are, and where we are from.