On January 7th, masked gunmen entered the French satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo, screaming “Allah Akbar” (Arabic for ‘God is great’), killing 11 people, and injuring 11 more. On January 11th, thousands gathered in Paris for a unity march, demonstrating solidarity against terrorism. Who was present? More than 40 world leaders. Who was absent? The United States…well, sort of…
You see, the U.S. ambassador to France, Jane Hartley, was our representative. But apparently, that was not a “high-ranking official” worthy of the occasion. And in the last several weeks, the White House has drawn bi-partisan, and even international criticism, for not sending a “higher-ranking official.” Yesterday, White House Chief of Staff, Denis McDonough, reiterated the administration’s regret, taking the blame for the gaffe, saying, “That rests on me. That’s my job.”
Now, politics aside, what I find very interesting is the shift through history in how ambassadors are viewed. Jane Hartley probably knew she was not a “high-ranking official” before the 11th; at least I hope so! I hope it wasn’t a surprise to her when she heard that news. In the modern era, “ambassador” is largely an honorary position. But it hasn’t always been that way.
Benjamin Franklin was the first ambassador of the United States in a time when, “ambassador,” truly meant something. He lived in France for 9 years and negotiated the very important support that America badly needed in the Revolutionary War. He represented the United States, and his presence implied the full power and office of the President. Franklin had such an impact on the French that, when he died, France mourned him as a hero.
Did you know that God sent an ambassador to this world once? His name was Jesus, and He was God’s Son. He was the perfect representation of God (Hebrews 1:3). He was God in the flesh (Matthew 1:23, John 1:14). Nothing beats the value of showing up personally, and that is what God did in Christ. Jesus’ message was simple: listening to Him was just like listening to God.
God showed us tremendous good will by sending His “highest ranking official.” But do you respect His ambassador? Does He carry enough importance with you?
Jesus told a parable in Matthew 21 of a landowner who sent servants to represent his interests in a vineyard. The vine-growers beat one servant, killed another, and stoned a third. They did the same when he sent more servants. Finally, “he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son’” (MT 21:37). But when they saw the son, they seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him.
They didn’t respect the ambassador or the power of the landowner. And, for that, they saw a “wretched” fate (21:41). Don’t be like the vine-growers; listen to Jesus today.
Jesus doesn’t need us to mourn His death, but rather, He tells us to celebrate His resurrection. His blood reconciles us to God! In fact, Ambassador is still an important job in the church. Or, as Paul said, “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” (2 Corinthians 5:20).