Christ#039;s ambassadors must use new methods

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Mark had not been to church in a long time.

One day the pastor showed up at Mark's door.

In the ensuing conversation Mark asked, "Do you want to know why I stopped going to church?

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I stopped going to church because it is full of hypocrites.

They sit in church on Sunday and are as nice as can be to everybody that is there.

But when you see them on Monday, they are just out to get you."

The pastor's first instinct was to disagree with Mark.

But then he said, "You're partially right, but I like to think of the church as a home for people who know they need forgiveness and as a place where everyone can learn how to live lives that are pleasing to God."

Many have pleaded that excuse: "I would come to church but there are too many hypocrites there."

But let me ask, if we take the sinners and hypocrites out of the church, who would be left? That's who the church is for, isn't it?

Jesus said, "I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance."

On another occasion, He said, "those who are well have no need of a physician."

The scriptures remind us that, "all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God."

In 2 Corinthians 5:11-6:2 Paul likens the Christian to an ambassador for God.

What does he mean by that?

An ambassador is one who represents the nation's viewpoint, asserts the nation's rights, seeks to smooth friction and create a spirit of harmony.

As ambassadors for Christ we are not the source of our message, but we are responsible for transmitting the message of God to others.

We are to represent God's viewpoint.

In the Beatitudes, recorded in Matthew's gospel, Jesus said, "Blessed are the peacemakers" - reminding us that we are to seek to smooth destructive friction and create a spirit of harmony.

On another occasion the apostle Paul said, "Š as much as possible, live peaceably with everyone."

Nowhere are we told that will always be easy.

On the contrary, we find stories of the suffering and hardships endured by Paul - and by Jesus Himself.

On the cross Jesus took our sins - our burdens, our evil desires, our selfishness - upon Himself so that you and I might be reconciled to God.

These things were endured not without pain or suffering or anguish - but with a patient endurance - with a patient triumphant victory that allows a person to pass the breaking point without breaking.

The scriptures tell us it was because of qualities and attitudes they possessed: Purity, kindness (that builds bridges), long-suffering (patience), knowledge, genuine love (that seeks the highest good of another person no matter who they are or what they have done), the Holy Spirit - the giver of all these strengths!

Paul discovered through personal experience that God's grace was fully adequate to meet all the headaches life could throw at him.

Oh, that our witness as ambassadors for Christ would show others we, too, have made this discovery and thereby lead them to discover through Christ how to meet life head-on with victory.

As ambassadors, it's not always easy to find the right words or actions to show the love of Christ to people in our neighborhoods and community.

Because our culture has changed so drastically in the last 15 years the words and ways once used by the church and with which we were somewhat comfortable, are often not understood by people who have no church background.

We have to discover and try new ways to show God's love to those around us - ways that convince them we really care about them - ways that show them faith and trust in Christ can make a positive difference in their lives, now.

Certainly there has never been a time when the need for reconciliation was more evident - reconciliation with God and with one another.

We need to be willing and open to continually learn new ways of communicating the gospel to people in the 21st century culture if we are to respond to God's call to be ambassadors for Christ - God is making His appeal through us!

Daryl G. Fourman has been pastor of Chesapeake United Methodist Church for the past 3 years.