A suggestion to be intentional and vigilant about being an attractive ambassador in everyday life
Yesterday on the freeway my moments of tender intercession were interrupted by outbursts of unkind words tumbling from the same lips previously dedicated to prayer. Yes, fresh and bitter water from the same spring (James 3).
The problem? Drivers who tailgate. They drive me nuts. California freeways are full of them and one was close at my heels.
The decent thing to do was to change lanes and let him pass, which I did—eventually. As the offender sailed by, though, I repaid him with a glare. Not as bad as I might have responded, but still not good.
My former piety now collapsed into conviction (“the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God”—also from James) and my prayer turned to confession. Mea culpa. I beat my breast, squared things with God, and returned to my previous enterprise.
Sixty seconds later it happened again. Another tailgater, another lane change, another scowl (though not as intense as before), another verse (“Don’t repay evil for evil”), and another confession.
You’d think that prayer would place me above such temptations, but it doesn’t seem to work that way for me. Instead, I have to stay on the alert. And having a concise conception of what is expected of me as a good ambassador helps me keep on track.
Years ago I asked myself what it would look like if I listed the intellectual and moral attributes an ambassador for Christ should possess. I had in mind something like the Boy Scout Law I had memorized as a youngster (be trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, etc.).
My musings led to a list of ten virtues. I then spent time clarifying precisely how I thought each virtue played its way out in day-to-day conduct. The full version of the Ambassador’s Creed is listed below. You may want to print it out and tape it to your bathroom mirror or fix it to your fridge to keep the ideas fresh in your mind.
The creed has been a great help to me. I reread it every month as a regular reminder of the kind of man I want to be for Christ.
I find that if I’m not vigilant and intentional about my character, it’s easy to become shrill, thoughtless, unkind, uncharitable, self-centered...your basic LA freeway lout. Christ and His Kingdom deserve better than that, though, and reflecting on the Ambassador’s Creed helps me to live closer to my calling.
An ambassador for Christ is...
- Ready. An Ambassador is alert for chances to represent Christ, will not back away from a challenge or an opportunity, and will not be stumped by the same challenge twice.
- Patient. An Ambassador won’t quarrel, but will listen in order to understand, then will with gentleness seek to respectfully engage those who disagree.
- Reasonable. An Ambassador has informed convictions (not just feelings), gives reasons, asks questions, and aggressively seeks answers.
- Tactical. An Ambassador adapts to each unique person and situation, maneuvering with wisdom to challenge bad thinking, presenting the truth in an understandable and compelling way.
- Clear. An Ambassador is careful with language and will not rely on Christian lingo or gain unfair advantage by resorting to empty rhetoric.
- Fair. An Ambassador is sympathetic and understanding towards others and will acknowledge the merits of contrary views.
- Honest. An Ambassador is careful with the facts and will not misrepresent another’s view, overstate his own case, or understate the demands of the Gospel.
- Humble. An Ambassador is provisional in his claims, knowing that his understanding of truth is fallible. He will not press a point beyond what his justification allows.
- Attractive. An Ambassador will act with grace, kindness, and good manners. He will not dishonor Christ in his conduct.
- Dependent. An Ambassador knows that effectiveness requires joining his best efforts with God’s power.