Sunday, January 13, 2013

Who sent you?

Looks authentic...
Are you ever sent to deliver a message?  Maybe to a coworker or subordinate, to a child or student... the basic role is the same and something we're all familiar with on a personal level;  I'm sure you've used the phrase "Don't shoot the messenger!"  But I fear we have, with the onset of technical gadgetry, lost a real grasp of the official status of an ambassador on a grand scale.  To use a recent political example, take the overt hostility in Libya:  when the personnel of the United States embassy were attacked, it was a tragedy to be sure, a criminal act to be condemned, mourned and prosecuted.  But the enemies of the U.S. didn't stop there... they attacked and murdered the U.S. ambassador to Libya.  In times past, not really all that long ago, it would be understood that this was tantamount to an official declaration of war against a country.  In fact, one of the significant steps a civilization must take to become civilized is the recognition of diplomatic status;  without stringent protections for the messengers between countries, there can be no guarantee that the other party/country desires communication at all, casting doubt on whether any agreement or treaty will be honored and kept.
     So am I just babbling about political theory here, or is there some biblical applicability on the horizon?  As prone as I am to verbal (or written) meandering, Paul in 2 Cor does use the imagery of an ambassador.  In the first century world, Caesar could not Skype his governors, or even get a good conference call going.  So it was essential to have trusted, authorized men to carry messages and return with the reply.  Such men were given sealed documents to prove who sent them and what these rulers wished to express.  God usually condescends to use a medium we're familiar with, and so we are given 2 Cor 5:20:
"Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God."
     It's incredible to think that the Creator of the Universe would trust us to tie our shoes correctly, let alone be His emissaries carrying the Most Important News Ever.  Now, the reception an ambassador can expect usually depends on 2 factors:  the prestige of the one who sent him, and the palatability of the message.  Paul knows on the first count, no one can beat him... I mean no one would put President Obama on hold, and who can trump this opener:   "God told me to tell you something!"  But on the other hand, how receptive would those same people be to the message that everything they've ever done is wrong, and the Judge of all the earth is coming to get them?  
     We're in the same boat as Paul;  our culture is just antagonistic to both the background and exclusivity of the gospel, and all people of all times instinctively hate to bow the knee to anyone but themselves.  But we are also sent by the same almighty God, authorized and sent to speak His words, and authenticated by the same seal of approval, the Holy Spirit (vs. 5).  We should feel a magnificent sense of wonder that God would allow His enemies to hear anything from Him aside from the keen whistle of His sword falling upon them.  I believe this is part of Paul felt as he pled with his audience... a heartfelt, urgent desire that those in Corinth repent and taste God's mercy in Jesus Christ.  But there is another part, a lower, more somber chord in the music:  Paul operates from a Scripturally-informed mindset, and knows that "not all have faith".  To those who persist in opposing God, we must grimly shake our heads (or "wag our tongues" in the King James):  they will not win.  All of God's foes will be overcome, either by His mercy or His justice.  Every knee will bow, in joyous praise or because it has been broken with a rod of iron.  So get moving... you're carrying God's mail.
Photo courtesy of zappowbang

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