2 Corinthians 5:20 says we are ambassadors for Christ as though God were speaking through us. If you are visible as a follower of Christ, you are an ambassador. People are drawing conclusions about your Sovereign from your actions and your words. What kind of message are we communicating with our lives? This includes all areas of life: how we treat our families as well as strangers on the freeway. What are the qualities of a good ambassador? If I was a sovereign of some sort, (i.e. the president) and I was choosing someone to represent me as his ambassador, what qualities would I look for in that person? The first component of a good ambassador is knowledge. If you’re going to a foreign culture with a foreign language, you might need to know something about the culture and language in order to contextualize your message in a way that they’ll understand. You have to at least be conversant in the necessary message you are trying to communicate that the sovereign has entrusted. The second requirement is to maneuver effectively in conversations. There is a way of maneuvering tactically with wisdom that allows you to be effective in conversations. Wisdom is the second component. If your candidate for ambassador has the requisite knowledge and has the ability to maneuver effectively in conversations yet is a womanizer, a cheat, or just plain rude, you can see now how character is going to undermine the entire message. The third component of a good ambassador is character. Our goal at Stand to Reason is not just to dispense information, but also to build ambassadors for Christ. Knowledge is an accurately informed mind, wisdom is an artful method, and character is an attractive manner.
Knowledge is an accurately informed mind. To be an effective ambassador, we need knowledge of the questions and answers. In Colossians 2, Paul warns against being taken captive by philosophy and empty deception according to the traditions of men instead of according to Christ. Paul is not warning against the tools of philosophy, but rather the opinions of philosophers and the world at large. Paul is saying that even though you can’t avoid being part of culture, you can avoid being taken captive by the ideas of the world. You need a basic understanding of the kinds of questions and challenges non-Christians have to avoid being taken in by them and to understand how to answer them. In 2 Corinthians 10:3-5, Paul talks about spiritual warfare. The weapons we have to fight the warfare are weapons of truth. The warfare is not principally demons sitting on people's shoulders, but rather demonic ideas that persuade people away from the truth of Christ. “We are tearing down speculative theories and all lofty things raised up against the knowledge of God and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.” Paul is saying that we should have accurate thoughts. It is our understanding of the truth that becomes a weapon to defeat false ideas. You need to be familiar with Scripture and understand the Christian worldview, how what we believe fits together and makes sense. This is how you will be able to answer challenges.
The second characteristic of a good ambassador is wisdom, an artful method. This is the ability to take knowledge and use it effectively in a conversation. An ambassador is a wise person in control of the circumstances, maneuvering diplomatically. The two aspects of wisdom are maneuvering and clarity. Having some skills in handling a conversation tactically allow us to interact with people so we can effectively communicate our convictions and get them thinking. I call this, “putting a stone in their shoe.” Three types of questions can be used to navigate in conversations. Questions are interactive. You ask a question and the other person answers. You are listening to what they have to say so you’re getting information that helps you know what they think. The first type of question is used to gather information. “What do you mean by that?” This can take all kinds of forms. Gathering information is very valuable so you know how to answer what they believe. The second type of question challenges another person's idea by asking them for the reasons that they hold their view: “How did you come to that conclusion?” or “What are your reasons for that?” You’re getting the rationale for the point of view. The third way to tactically maneuver with questions is to use a question to make a point. Use your questions to move the conversation toward the point you want to make. The second aspect of wisdom is clarity. The single most prevalent way Christians muddy the waters is by using Christian lingo instead of just talking in plain language. Try to find ways of expressing Biblical ideas in everyday language. Not only is it clearer to the listener, but it helps them think about it when it’s expressed in a different way than they may have heard before. Find synonyms you can work into your conversation so it is more intelligible to the people you talk with.
The final characteristic of a good ambassador is character, an attractive manner. 1 Peter 3:15 says to always be ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope within you with gentleness and reverence. Paul says to Timothy that the Lord’s bondservant should not be quarrelsome, but patient when wronged. Therefore, it’s important for us to be attentive to our manner, how we come across to others. My basic rule is, if anybody gets mad in a conversation, I lose because they won’t listen to what I have to say. Try to avoid an argument as much as possible so you can have the impact that you want to have. To engage others respectfully, use these phrases when appropriate: “That's a good point.” “That’s a good question.” By giving credit where credit is due, we are being fair-minded and creating a more genial interaction. In some cases, it’s even fair to say, “You know, I could be mistaken.” It’s possible that one some points you could be wrong, and it’s rhetorically effective to admit that and to show you’re open to engaging a good argument. Don’t give any offense that is personal and not part of the Gospel. But don’t remove any offense that is intrinsic to the Gospel. To communicate the Gospel accurately is going to be offensive. Peter says Jesus is the stumbling block. Don’t be so afraid of disagreement that you don’t share the Biblical message. The Gospel is offensive enough; so don't add any more offense to it with your manner.