This is what they forget

Two thousand years is a long time. That’s two centuries.Two bundles of hundreds. Fifty generations, give or take. A long time.

Jesus ascended sometime around 33 AD. Before He left, He promised to come back.

He is coming back.

Men of Galilee,” they said, “Why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen Him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:11).

When He returns, sinners will stand before Him to receive their punishment for their sins. (Psalm 145:20).

We will stand before Him also. We won’t be receiving wrath or condemnation or punishment as the wicked will, but we will account for everything we said and everything we did in His name. (2 Corinthians 5:10, Matthew 12:36, Revelation 22:12).

We have one job. As Christians, we are charged with bringing one message and one message only, containing its necessary elements, to people whom Jesus charged should hear it. (All the world.) We have a job title: Ambassador.

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Therefore we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making His appeal through us. (2 Corinthians 5:20).

Our sphere is international. Did you know that? The life I live would seem to belie that statement. Maybe yours, too. I have a small job and live in a small town. However that’s only surface. What I say and what I do is seen and heard internationally and inter-galactically. God in heaven hears and sees. Jesus hears and sees. The Spirit in me certainly hears and sees. The holy angels hear and see. The unholy angels (demons) hear and see. If we blog or tweet, anyone in the world can read it. Our efficacy within the sphere Jesus gave us impacts things locally, globally, and intergalactically.

We ambassadors have a Boss: Jesus. If you work at a job for a long time, you might notice your boss changing. If he or she was new when you started, perhaps he changed into a more mature or patient boss. If your boss was old when you started, perhaps over time she has become crabby or a poor listener. Perhaps the Brand of your company has changed (IHOB anyone?) or the message of the brand has changed (bye-bye “Have it Your Way”).

Unlike our earthly bosses, Jesus doesn’t change. The message doesn’t change. There is no wiggle room. The message, the task, and the boss is eternally firm and unchanging. We have one Boss who never changes, one message that never changes, and one job that never changes.

He is coming back.

This is what they forget.

Not only is He coming back, but THIS SAME JESUS is coming back. (Acts 1:11). The Jesus that the so-called evangelical world calls Jesus is not the same Jesus that left this world. The boyfriend Jesus or warm fuzzies Jesus or accepting of any-Gospel Jesus is not the one returning to earth. Yes, He is loving, tender, and forgiving, but that is not all He is.

He was angry at times. (Mark 3:5). He rebuked hypocrites. He called some of them vipers. He hated what sin does to sinners. He said that the Pharisees were whitewashed tombs (dead graves!). He was wrathful upon those abusing the Temple. He had zeal for His Father’s house. (John 2:13-22). His wrath already abides on sinners. (Romans 1:18). He is coming in blood and wrath and judgment. (Revelation 14:20).

It’s convenient to forget that facet of the unchanging Jesus. It’s easy to rationalize that we’re allowed to tweak the message. He’s so nice, He won’t mind, right? It’s normal to think that we can talk our way out of accepting any ole gospel, after all, we talk our way out of things to our parents/professors/bosses so often.

No. This same Jesus is returning. What does this mean to you? How can we apply that Acts 1:11 verse to how we’ve behaved and what we’ve accepted or taught as deviations from the one message? We’re ambassadors, after all. There will be a job evaluation. (1 Corinthians 3:12).

I found this interesting essay from 2013 at the website of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. It’s called Ideal Qualities of a Successful Diplomat by Robert D. Blackwill. Blackwill was an Ambassador to India.

If you read this, and I hope you do, frame it in your mind as Christians being Ambassadors to Christ. There is a lot of useful overlap. Blackwill lays out 15 characteristics that he believes are fundamental for successful diplomats.

Possess an abiding interest in and passion for the art and craft of diplomacy and international relations.  If this subject matter does not feed you, if you do not have a compelling instinct to learn about the world, pursue a different profession.

Demonstrate an analytical temperament. Our current culture encourages ideological predisposition and rigidity. We are invited to have an opinion without first having a full command of the facts. Resist the temptation to prescribe before you analyse. Dean Acheson understood how hard this is, “I was a frustrated schoolteacher, persisting against overwhelming evidence to the contrary in the belief that the human mind could be moved by facts and reason.”

Write well and quickly. Nurture your ability to rapidly produce quality prose.  Read and learn from great writers. Try George Orwell, E. B. White and John McPhee.

Be verbally fluent and concise. George Shultz observes that listening is an underrated way of acquiring knowledge.  Pay attention, speak only when necessary and keep your comments brief.  These are not qualities highly prized in academia.

Ensure meticulous attention to detail. Whether your work is going to the President or Prime Minister, to your immediate superiors or to your peers, each deserves a flawless product.  Don’t accept less of yourself.  Jeff Bezos stresses, “If you don’t understand the details of your business you are going to fail.”

Be a tough and effective negotiator. Getting to yes is not the objective of a diplomat.  Begin instead with what best serves your country’s national interests and then seek to achieve a negotiating outcome as close to those requirements as possible.  Adopt clear red lines and do not compromise beyond them.  And as James Baker advises, “Never let the other fellow set the agenda.”

Build long-term physical and mental stamina. With the exercise of power and responsibility comes continuous 12-16 hour days, filled with pressure and stress.  Be fit.

Accept dangerous assignments. Diplomats frequently serve in menacing locales, sometimes die in the line of duty. From Libya to Iraq to Afghanistan and beyond, this is not a line of work only conducted in rarefied surroundings. Reflect on your degree of anticipated personal courage before entering this profession.

Study history. Former Harvard faculty giants Ernest May and Richard Neustadt eloquently counsel thinking in the context of time.  They insist that knowledge of history does not provide exact policy prescriptions in present circumstances, but it does illuminate choices and raise central questions of policy formulation and implementation.  A good start is Henry Kissinger’s A World Restored.

Prudently speak your opinion to power. Be ready to disagree with evolving policy when it really matters. But choose your dissenting moments wisely.  Don’t badger your principal. And if such policy differences become paramount, don’t whine. Resign.

Be loyal and truthful to your boss. Never question outside of government a decision made further up your bureaucratic chain of command, no matter how much you disagree with it.  Once such a decision is made, your professional duty is to try your best to implement it.  There is nothing courageous in disavowing your Administration’s decision in whispered tones in social settings.  And never misrepresent or lie to your official superiors, no matter how expedient it might appear at the moment.  If you do so, you should be fired.

Cultivate policy resilience. If the Duke of Wellington never lost a battle, most generals do – and so will you. Expect periodic policy defeats and energetically move on to the next challenge.

Acquire relevant work experience. Invest time, energy and effort in your own professional development. Don’t thirst for too much power and responsibility too soon.  In diplomacy – as in most endeavors – experience is a crucial component of success.  As Renaissance painters demanded, apprenticeship is a necessary step in professional enhancement. Would you hire a plumber who was academically well versed in water distribution, but had never installed a pipe?

Know your political ideology. No matter how flattering a foreign policy job proposal may be, ask yourself whether your ideology is compatible with that of the offering institution.  Not to do so is to invite endless professional pain and torment.

Take advantage of luck when you encounter it. When Napoleon was asked what kind of generals he looked for, he responded “lucky ones.”  Be ready when events in the world provide policy opportunities you can exploit.  Getting on a personal professional wave you can ride – and that you want to ride – is also importantly a matter of good fortune.  Relentless attention to the other fourteen characteristics enumerated here will put you in the best position to partially make your own luck in your career.

This is good advice, and it’s to secular people, doing a secular job. It’s obvious that thousands of Ambassadors around the world maintain this level of dignity, commitment, and intensity to their jobs. It’s equally obvious that what is asked of them is attainable.

Christians should do those things, but better. We have the Holy Spirit. We have THE message, We have life.

Don’t forget: Jesus, this same Jesus, is returning. Our job evaluation as Ambassadors will be presented before Him. How did you (I) do?

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