Dear Brothers and Sisters,
As you well know, our lives are constantly bombarded by advertising. Ads appear about every five minutes on television and radio, pop up as we browse the Internet, and are ubiquitous in print media and on billboards, benches and even buses. Though some of these ads are clever, I find most to be annoying, intrusive time-wasters.
To believe many of these ads you’d have to practice what Samuel Taylor Coleridge called “suspension of disbelief”—the temporary acceptance of events or characters as credible despite that they ordinarily are seen as incredible. The movie series Star Wars is a case in point, asking us to suspend disbelief to accept the idea that a gorilla-like character named Chewbacca can copilot a futuristic starship named Millennium Falcon! Many ads these days are equally fanciful, though once in a while one comes along that aligns with reality. My prayer is that the testimony of our lives is one such credible advertisement—a walking, talking ad for the gospel!
When the apostle Paul proclaims that we are ambassadors for Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20 ESV), he is reminding us that our lives should positively advertise Christ and his gospel. Though some of us are more colorful or clever in the way we do so, all of us, through our union and communion with God, are living, flesh-and-blood, walking, talking ads for the new life in Christ. That, of course, is a rather sobering thought since we want our lives to turn people to Christ, and not be an annoying, obnoxious promotion that prompts people to turn away from him.
Having the mindset that we truly are walking, talking ads for the gospel will, no-doubt, impact what we say and how we behave. It will keep us mindful that our day-to-day lives, which can seem so routine, have great meaning and purpose. It’s easy to lose sight of the reality of God’s omnipresence and of our enduring union with Christ by the Spirit. But these are realities, and God truly does want to use us as channels of his redeeming grace to the world. He does so in many ways, both ordinary and extraordinary. Sometimes he calls upon us to share a meal with an unbeliever—“eating and drinking to his glory” (1 Corinthians 10:31-33). Other times he calls upon us to verbally share the gospel story with an unbeliever, or to extend forgiveness in Jesus’ name to one that has wronged us. Sometimes God acts in and through us in miraculous ways to restore a broken relationship or participate in his healing of a person’s broken body. There are many ways for us to be walking, talking ads for the gospel.
We need to think about the topic of evangelism in light of the truth that Jesus already is Lord and Savior of all humanity. The kingdom already has been inaugurated and those who are following Jesus live already in communion with the Father, Son and Spirit. Though we live life now in a temporary human frame, and much of what we say and do is conditioned by our physical limitations and the circumstances that surround us, our true identities are found in the reality that we already are children of God who are co-heirs with Christ (2 Corinthians 5:1-5). This being so, our lives should reflect (advertise!) these profound, though somewhat hidden realities. Jesus promised to give us power by his Spirit to do so and thus be his faithful “witnesses” (Acts 1:8).
Being a walking, talking ad for the gospel means that what we do and say is highly significant. While our behavior does not earn us salvation, living faithfully in Christ does have behavioral expectations. Because we represent Christ, our lives should reflect who we know him to be—one with the Father and the Spirit in a triune communion of love. God, who is relationship, has created us in and for relationship. This reality should impact the way we interact with other people (unbelievers included). First, we should interact with them knowing we are children of God and wanting to reflect his love out to others. Second, and of equal importance, we should interact with unbelievers knowing that they too are children of God who need to experience the love of their heavenly Father.
Paul put it this way, “So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view” (2 Corinthians 5:16). His point is that our behavior matters because we no longer live our lives for ourselves—we live it for God and for others. “For the love of Christ compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves, but for him who died for them and was raised again” (2 Corinthians 5:14-15).
Paul follows this up by calling us “ambassadors for Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:20) in the context of telling us that we are called to participate with Christ in his ongoing ministry of reconciliation. I sometimes wonder what the world would be like if every follower of Jesus lived with a mindset of reconciliation based on love rather than condemnation. What if we treated others as who they truly are—children of God—doing everything we can to help them turn to the One who died for them? What if we looked at others the way God looks at them, knowing that “God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them” (2 Corinthians 5:19 ESV)? Although the salvation of others does not ultimately depend on our witness, we experience joy knowing we were involved in God “making his appeal” to others “through us” (2 Corinthians 5:20).
It is a pleasure and privilege to take part in what God is doing to transform people as they receive the good news of their reconciliation and enter into loving communion with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. And though I can’t change the way people think and act, I can (and do) pray that God will continually remind me that I’m a walking, talking ad for the gospel. I also pray that he will guide me to be the most joyful and effective ad (ambassador for Christ) possible. I encourage you to join me in this prayer.
Living and sharing the gospel,