Yesterday was a pretty patriotic day for Canadians. I dare say, even for those who are not sport or Olympic fans, there was a certain boasting in national pride when Canada’s Olympic Women’s Curling and Hockey teams earned gold medals in their respective disciplines. The men have a chance to follow suit in the coming days, and they have, no doubt, received inspiration from their hard-working female colleagues.
While I wasn’t able to watch either game because of ministry commitments, seeing the looks on the athletes’ faces in photos posted after the games told the story. These competitors – including those who do not medal – work very hard to excel in their chosen sport. They go with a desire to win, and an intention to represent their country well. And, I dare say, every athlete wearing the Canadian flag has upheld the good name and the good reputation of their Home And Native Land. Those who win gold demonstrate by their faces just how much a dream-come-true it is for them to win. It’s a wonderful thing to witness in the middle of a long, hard winter back home.
In interview after interview, Olympians articulate what a privilege and honour it is to represent Canada on the world stage. From competitors to coaches, those witnessing the games develop, or retain, a very favourable view of Canada. After all, when you live in such a great country, it’s easy to want to represent it well, as ambassadors.
We followers of Jesus can learn something from our nation’s Olympians. Every day, from the moment we wake up until we fall asleep, we represent Jesus and his church. We represent Jesus when we speak to our spouses and children, our co-workers and bosses, our neighbours and friends, the strangers we encounter on the street and the clerks in the stores where we shop. Whether we wear an emblem of our faith commitment or not, we are God’s ambassadors in the world.
When you serve such an amazing God, it’s easy to want to represent him well, as ambassadors.
But because we are called to this important role every day, and not just for a couple of weeks out of four years, it can be hard for us to remember that we represent Jesus. Sometimes, we don’t represent him well. This is an area where we all can grow. It’s one of the many graces of being a disciple of Christ: we do not achieve perfection upon our profession of faith. We grow into our calling as faithful followers, looking more like Jesus every day. It’s a process whereby we are shaped and molded day after day, year after year, until we die (or Jesus returns). We are being formed as ambassadors for the Lord.
Can we, like our Olympians, show on our faces, and by our actions, how amazing is our God? It needs to be an intentional act; it won’t happen on its own. And it can make a real difference: the atheistic philosopher of the 19th century, Friedrich Nietzsche, famously said to Christians that he would believe in their Redeemer when his people looked more redeemed! Sometimes, countenance makes all the difference.
It’s about more than “Smile, God loves you”, though. It’s about actions that back up the claim that God loves people – the world – so much that he gave his only Son.
Be intentional. We can do it!
“So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, ‘Come back to God!’” (2 Corinthians 5.20, NLT).