Life is full of symbols and representations. My work uniform represents something. People see it and form ideas, right or wrong, about me based on what they have seen or been exposed to previously. I have always been conscious of this whenever I have had a job that had a uniform. At the earliest opportunity, off goes the name-badge or uniform shirt and into regular clothes.
But, in some cases, you can’t just turn who and what you represent on or off at will. An off-duty policeman is expected to be a policeman at all times. If the theater manager asks if there is a doctor in the house, even though they are not “on-duty” they are required to help. Not only that, but their behavior on or off duty reflects on their profession. As a Sunday School teacher, especially when I was involved in the lower age groups, every once in a while I would have a little child run up and hug me and I would hastily have to introduce myself to parents.
At a higher level, an ambassador is a representative who is always under close scrutiny. They are a person who is not only educated by their country but have also studied the ways and mannerisms of the country they are going to. There are many unofficial ambassadors, of course, but an ambassador who is appointed by his or her country or kingdom is held to the highest standard of behavior. They must behave themselves in a way that causes everyone around them to think highly of and respect their kingdom. Wherever they go and whatever they do, they have to always be aware of not only the local laws and customs and show them respect, they also must make a good impression on the people they are exposed to, whether they like it or not. I worked with a guy who had been involved, at a much lower level, with an embassy overseas. One of the things he mentioned was becoming accustomed to local cuisine. And all the while, in all things, even the simplest of interactions, an ambassador must always and ever choose his words with care.
Our pastor taught a series of lessons in a leadership class about how the scripture says, “Now then we are ambassadors for Christ…” He pointed out an example of how, when he goes to a restaurant, he not only has to be nice to the staff but no matter how lousy the service was, he still has to tip well and be respectful, because he represents the church to everyone he comes in contact with. And, knowing personally the character of the man, I can tell you he is a genuine, kind and polite person and is always a good example.
If we claim to be a part of the Kingdom of God and say we want to be disciples and learn and do the teachings of Jesus, then we need to see the weight that our words carry. Being an ambassador for our Kingdom is the hardest job of all. No matter what our personal feelings are, we must often bite our tongue and not hurl insults and rude behavior towards someone and then stand our ground firmly as though we did nothing wrong.
In a chapel at our school that I was asked to teach, I illustrated it with a tube of toothpaste, a paper plate, and a toothpick. The toothpaste was mean words and rude things we say and squirted all over the plate easily enough. But when we want to take them back, it’s like trying to scrape the toothpaste back into the tube with a toothpick.
Some people need a box of toothpicks.
Remember, the Good Book says, “…every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.“