Ambassadors for Christ
“’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” - Jeremiah 29:11
This verse from Jeremiah is one of the most quoted passages from scripture. Usually it is used in the context of personal comfort and self-assurance, but does it apply to sharing the good news with others? The answer is: Yes, it does!
Recently I took a trip to the New York area via train (what a shock!). Normally I use this travel time for “decompression.” I enjoy the anonymity of traveling not as the “Pastor,” but as just another passenger. I relax with a good book, a nap or a long look out the window at the passing scenery. On past trips, I have talked to various people in the dining car or in the café car. These interactions make travel by rail special.
Yet this trip was somewhat different. Due to present issues, I was apprehensive about traveling on public transportation and my destination of New Jersey was still in a modified lock-down status. I didn’t realize it at the time, but no matter where I went, where I sat, or what role I was myself in, I am still an ambassador of Jesus Christ.
Due to cutbacks in ridership, the usual ticket agent at South Bend was furloughed. The agent’s replacement was a young man in a work program, hired through a third party; he did not work for Amtrak. He was a local kid from South Bend, trying to get ahead. I am always sympathetic towards young men and women trying to get a break in life, as it reminds me of my own journey. He came out of the station to talk. He expressed the desire to eventually hire on with the railroad. We talked about life; we exchanged notes about things we had experienced, and I shared with him my life as a railroader. Then he asked; “What do you do now?” I told him I was a pastor. He seemed to understand why I had become a pastor after experiencing all that I had in my life.
When I finally arrived in New Jersey, after many pleasant hours on the train, it was a bit surreal. There were very few people anywhere! The sprawling station at my destination had more cleaning crews than riders. It was there that I met my next appointed person. A young man walked by me to the next platform with what looked like a Bible in his hand. On his shirt was a biblical passage, I think from Isaiah. Approaching him, I asked: “Is that the sward of the Spirit?” With that his face lit up and we began to talk. He was on his way home to Upstate New York, near a section I sometimes visit in the summer. He mentioned the name of his pastor, who sounded familiar to me. Then we talked about the need to overcome all the anger in the world with genuine Christian love. It was a true blessing to know that no matter where I went, or the time of day, I was never alone. God had put people in my path for encouragement , support, and a chance to praise Him!
The final incident came in Penn Station, New York, as I prepared to return to Indiana. The station is entirely underground. Its configuration reminds me of the Grand Bizarre in Istanbul; cramped and crowded with lots of small shops in a confusing maze-like layout. For those that are unfamiliar, Penn Station can also be rather intimidating as there are lots of homeless people lying about.
“Can you give me money?” asked a man who was hanging around my designated waiting area. “When was the last time you ate?” I asked, expecting a con game. “To tell you the truth, I ate not that long ago!” the man replied. “Do you know the Lord?” I asked, to which he replied rather insincerely, “yes.” Then I asked “Does the Lord know you?” to which I received no reply at all. Reaching into my cooler, I gave him some of the food I had bought for the trip, and he thanked me profusely. “Pay it forward.” I told him.
I share these accounts with you to remind us all of our roles as an ambassador of Christ. No matter where you are or what you do, do you remember to take Jesus Christ with you? Consider the words said to Queen Esther about living out the role that you are called to: “And who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” In the circumstances you find yourself today, do you live out your role as an Ambassador of Christ? Or do you remain silent? Do you look for God in all situations, through all people, or do you shrink back in fear? We have Good News to be shared! We should share it boldly with the world! Are you prepared to share it? Pray for boldness, pray for courage and trust God in all circumstances and situations.
Your Ambassador in Christ,