We’re so excited to welcome Ian Irvin to the University Park Church of the Brethren website contributors. Ian is hoping to share his thoughts around his faith journey with us about once a month. Please feel free to support and engage with him in the comment section below. Here’s a little more about Ian.
Ian is a former Modern Standard Arabic linguist with the U.S. Air Force and youth pastor before returning to finish his education back home in Pennsylvania. After graduating, Ian married his best friend, Alaina, and the two moved to the District of Columbia, Maryland, Virginia (DMV) where Ian is an attorney with the federal government. Ian enjoys Penn State football, reading in his and Alaina’s library, and pampering their two cats: Nittany and Pride. Ian hopes to remain sensitive to God’s calling and helping others develop a closer relationship with Christ.
Appointing an Ambassador
Instead of enjoying leftover turkey, stuffing, and mashed potatoes, Alaina, my wife, and I headed down to Georgia to see a good friend get married. As this was Alaina’s first time to the Peach State, we decided to spend a few extra days visiting friends & family and doing “touristy” things in Atlanta.
During our two days in Atlanta, I developed a minor bellyache as I tried a score of soft drinks from around the globe at the World of Coca-Cola. At the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library, we read about the life of a former Commander-in-Chief who highly values human rights and justice. At the College Football Hall of Fame, we read, in part, of the importance of the service academies and historically black colleges to football. Finally, we toured the CNN Center where we walked the news floor, observed the control rooms, and snuck into a studio during a live broadcast.
As we walked the stairs and halls of CNN, one of the top stories was about who our President-elect will nominate as the next Secretary of State, the foremost ambassador of the United States. As pundits debated whether it will be Mitt Romney, Rudy Giuliani, David Petraeus, or Bob Corker, I was struck by 2 Corinthians 5:20, where the apostle Paul says, “we are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.”
Thinking about this verse, several different reflections came to mind. It was something that I skipped over countless times, but Paul purposefully uses the word “ambassador” and not “diplomat.” While there is a lot of overlap, there remains a substantive difference between the meaning of the two words. Whereas a diplomat is a person who represents a government in another country, an ambassador is the foremost person who represents a government in another country.
It is in that subtle difference, the view of my role as God’s ambassador has changed. Before, I thought of myself merely as one of God’s representatives in this world. However, that is not the case. I am God’s foremost representative to the places He has sent me: my work, my neighborhood, and my friends & family. Again, to all of these, I am not a representative of God, I am God’s foremost representative.
Finally, realizing I am God’s ambassador to the particular people I come into contact each day, it has me wonder – am I being a good ambassador for God? Unlike the pundits discussing the loyalty of one potential Secretary of State versus the resume of another possible Secretary of State, have I been a true Christian – someone who is Christ-like – to those around me? Have I prayed for this country’s leader whom I supported? Have I prayed for this country’s leader whom I did not support even though God is the one who raised those leaders? Have I spread a fake news article on Facebook despite being called to both rejoice and dwell on the truth? In the midst of debating substantive policy considerations, have I descended into demagoguery and ad hominem attacks? Have I been blinded by the politics of parties in America and forgotten about the Kingdom I am an ambassador for?
Even though we are 7 weeks from a new administration in Washington, the Kingdom of God has come near, and I am its ambassador.