We will fight for peace, but we will do no violence.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Warships Full of Buckets: Or Ambassadors and Their Enemies

by Chase Andre

On the anniversary of Sept. 11, men — protesters? terrorists? — breached the walls of the US embassy to Libya, tore down the American flag and murdered the US Ambassador, J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.

To the Libyans, Stevens was functionally President Obama. An ambassador carries the authority of the one he represents. With this authority, Ambassador Stevens managed to transform the civil war-torn country. “It’s especially tragic that Chris Stevens died in Benghazi, because it is a city that he helped to save,” President Obama declared of the fallen US hero.

President Obama went on to say, "There is absolutely no justification for this type of senseless violence," and has vowed to seek justice on the perpetrators.

If you mess with an ambassador, you better be prepared for the wrath of his higher up. Wars have started because an ambassador was mistreated. That’s why no one has expressed much surprise at the Pentagon’s decision to deploy two warships to the coast of Libya. While the White House has, rightfully, been careful not to blame Libya or Islam for these actions, it is too early to tell what sort of “wrath” will befall on those who pulled the trigger.

In the meantime, I mourn with the families of the four people who lost their lives today.

This story grabbed my attention because I find myself fascinated with the relationship between ambassadors and their homeland, as well as their relationship with the land they occupy.

In his second letter to the Corinthians, Paul instructs us to relate to God and to the city around us like Ambassador Stevens related to President Obama and to Benghazi, Libya. Paul knew a lot about this ambassador relationship to which he called the Corinthians (and us); he lived his life as an ambassador, and often encountered those who disrespected the Authority he carried. Stoning and imprisonment were regular rhythms of his life as Christ’s ambassador.

But he understood this relationship to another degree, too. See, in a past life, Paul — or Saul, as he was known then — sought out and murdered Christ’s ambassadors, protesting the spread of the Gospel. In response, Christ turned his wrath on Saul. He deployed the warships of his gaze onto the enemy of His representatives. As a result, Saul became Paul. The enemy became the friend became the ambassador. The wrath which Christ turned on the terrorist of the Church was the fullness of His love.

This is how the enemies of God are treated. P(ost-S)aul says it plainly in Romans: “For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life” (5:10).

As Ambassadors of Christ, we are called to treat our enemies in the same way. “But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you” (Matt. 5:44). As Christians, the warships sailing toward our enemies’ shores mustn’t hold Tomahawk missiles, but meals, prayers, and buckets to wash the feet of those who intend to dance on our graves.

It’s easy to talk about this when it’s a conversation springboarded off of a tragedy on the other side of the world. When it’s someone else’s enemies. When it’s someone else’s coast.

But what about our enemies at home?

Who do you perceive to be your enemy? Is it someone who shares your blood? Someone in your office? Is it someone who lacks the right “papers”? Police officers? The church on the corner? Politicians or murderers? The monkey suits in Wall St, or the jumpsuits in penitentiaries?

What is your God-ordered role as an Ambassador to those enemies? What about to those in your city? Will they say, as President Obama said of Christopher Stevens, that it’s a city you helped to save?

Remember, the way the world responds to tragedy and persecution isn’t the way heaven does. We are here to represent heaven’s King, and are called to respond to His enemies as He does. May your warships be loaded with love, may grace be its cargo, and may there be reconciliation in its sails.


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