I unapologetically need to write whenever I see an news article on Rome. Something about hearing journalists cover what can be the idiosyncrasies gets my attention and usually awakens something inside of me.
The recent headlines on the Iranian Presidents diplomatic visit to Rome made me think about what it takes to create diplomacy. Hassan Rouhani's visit to Rome made headlines because of what the Prime Minister, Matteo Renzi, of Italy went through to make sure that the Iranian President felt comfortable enough to talk about diplomacy. Amongst must criticism from fellow Italians, Renzi had all of the nude sculptures covered up with white wooden boxes, so as to not offend the Muslim head of state. Living in Italy, I can say that Italians hold beauty, and especially artistic beauty in the highest regard, so to take away some of the art of the Capitoline Museum which is what the country is the most proud of, is a bug message. Many Italians were asking "why?". Renzi was not trying to throw away the Italian values of beauty or nationalism, but I believe was rather communicating that his role as diplomat and ambassador in this moment was the most important. Renzi made his communication the and personal dealings with the President the prime feature of his visit and tried to make sure there were no distractions from that.
This so reminded me of Paul's plea with the Corinthians to be ambassadors of Christ in the ministry of reconciliation: "Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God." 2 Corinthians 5:20. And it made me think of some principles of what it means to be an ambassador of Christ.
1. Don't offend, but rather let the gospel message be the offender: Some may read this principle and already be done with anything else I have to say. We are pretty obsessed as a culture to not step on anyone's toes ever. The example of Jesus' life in the Bible was one of love for all people. Jesus had a winsome way of making people feel comfortable, at ease and able to bear the entirety of who they were with him. And yet, his message was an offensive one. Jesus told people that the only thing in the end that would remain would be himself. He told people that even though man had been trusting on their religion, their good efforts and themselves to define the core of their identity that these thing would be insufficient in the end. Jesus said man was sinful, and they needed Him to be acceptable to God. And yet in all of this, Jesus remained inoffensive as a person. I think this is an important part of being an ambassador in the ministry of reconciliation. Just like Renzi took away the offense of a Muslim seeing an artistic nude, we need to take away any offense that might stop people from meeting with us and really listening to our message. The Bible tells us the gospel message will offend some, but on others they will receive it and have eternal life. So to me the questions is: do we get to the point with people where they can hear enough of our message to either be offended or grateful?
2. Communication needs to be our number one priority in the ministry of reconciliation: Renzi took away offense so that he and Rouhani could get to the business of talking about how their two countries could work together more effectively, but they had to know what to do once they got around to talking. I imagine there was a team of people from the Iranian side and Italian side that were there just to make sure the two men could understand each other. There was probably another team of people whose job was to make sure each man was informed and had the right information they needed to be able to know what needed to be talked about. We as ambassadors need to be prepared to communicate as diplomats. We need to know how to speak the language of the person across the table from us. We need to know what sorts of examples, metaphors and arguments they respond to. We need to be informed enough on their life to understand what it is going to take to offer reconciliation. We need to know what to say. I think the biggest hindrance that stops people from entering into holy conversations when the opportunities present themselves is that they don't know what to say.
3. Ministry is about diplomacy more than conquering: We are welcoming people into God's kingdom. We are reconciling them to the way of life that every person was made to live. We are God's diplomats meant to be brokering deals on God's terms. We don't have to conquer anything because Christ has already conquered death for us now, and God will conquer everything in the end. God has left us with the job of getting as many of His own back to Him as possible.
How are we all doing in these three principles in our work as Ambassadors of Christ in the ministry of reconciliation?