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October 10, 2009 / joelmalm

Please stop beating that trash can lid!

It just doesn’t seem right that because you were born in a certain place or were raised in a specific geographic location you should have more influence. I agree completely, but the facts don’t change. I live in Latin America. I am constantly being asked to speak at churches. Have these pastors ever heard me speak? Do they know I have anything valuable to say? Are they sure I am not a lunatic? The answer to all of the above is – NO. So why on earth would they entrust me with the honor and responsibility of speaking to their congregations. Sadly, the reason is because I am from a Western country. I could be the worst speaker in the world, but the automatic assumption of most of these pastors is that I have something to say. (Of course I do, all westerners have something to say! Whether it’s of value or not is up for debate.) It’s wrong that much of the third-world should have such a high opinion of us but as they say in Quebec – c’est la vie. Such is life.

It’s just the way it is. This fact has serious implications for us. We are responsible for using that unmerited favor in a way that glorifies God and honors his name wherever we are. It is important to remember that wherever you go wearing your earthly citizenship you are an ambassador. You are a spokesperson for the country you come from. People judge your homeland and its people by how you act while you are out. Take that responsibility seriously.

I’m not going anywhere!
So what if I have no dreams of leaving the country? I like it here in Uhh-merica or Canadia or England and don’t really feel a call to anywhere else. I hear you and unfortunately, if you are a Christian you aren’t off the hook. Your responsibility and influence as a citizen aren’t diminished. You are a citizen of a place that gives you great influence, a kingdom that will be around for a very, very long time and it will never lose its power. While nations of the world wax and wane in strength and influence the Kingdom of Heaven isn’t going anywhere. It has been established and it is here to stay. As a saint, forgiven by Christ’s sacrifice you are part of God’s kingdom and have been given all the rights of a citizen of that domain.

The Apostle Paul was born into Roman citizenship. A leader that called for his flogging wasn’t. “I bought this citizenship for a large sum,” he commented to Paul. The citizenship we have in heaven wasn’t free. Just like the tribune it required paying a high price. A price that we couldn’t pay. The King knew this and made a way for the price for our citizenship to be covered. Jesus paid for our citizenship and all the rights and freedoms that come with it. It wasn’t cheap. But it was necessary. We have a responsibility to use that citizenship wisely. We are ambassadors of a kingdom that is spread peaceably. Many religions spread their beliefs through force and violence. Jesus calls his citizens to spread the kingdom through love. They will know we are Christians by our love. (1 John 3:10)

Our Little Flag
When I travel around the world there is one group of people that I always love to hang out with. I can easily recognize a British, Scottish, Australian, or Kiwi accent. The group I am talking about is easy to mistake for something they aren’t. Many get offended when I ask if they are from the United States. When I have a hunch that someone is from North America I immediately begin examining their clothes or their backpacks for an identifier. This helps me to avoid mislabeling. What am I looking for you ask? A Canadian flag. Any true Canadian always identifies themselves with that little red and white maple leaf patch or pin somewhere on them. They all seem to have one, or several. It’s their identifying characteristic that makes people see – we are not from the United States. We have another home just north of there. Eh?

We need to take a hint from the Canadians. We all need to wear a little flag that sets us apart. A flag that says hey, “I may look the same, but I am different. I have another home just north of here and I am a proud citizen of that kingdom. “ Our flag, or banner, is love. Love sets us apart from the rest. Love should be the universal language of all Christians; with it we can speak across cultures, genders and races.

When I take short-term mission teams around the world I always remind them they need to beef up their language fluency. It’s not Chinese, Spanish, Portuguese or French – it’s love. It can be frustrating trying to communicate in a foreign country, but there is a higher language. With it you can reach across any cultural or linguistic barrier. Without it, you are only an annoyance. “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or clanging cymbal.” (1 Corinthians 13:1)

Translators at the United Nations are the best of the best. They can translate anything and everything with cultural relevance and precision. They have to know the ins and outs, slang and idiomatic expressions of both languages they are translating. The future of peaceful relations between countries often depends on their communication skills. Paul says that you can have the linguistic skills of a UN translator, but if you don’t have love you sound like someone beating a garbage can lid at 4:30am. You just want them to stop! No one cares what you know until they know you care. Love speaks loudly wherever you are in the world. Love should be the red and white maple leaf flag of all believers.

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One Comment

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  1. Jana Malm / Oct 28 2009 7:08 pm

    Super, Joel. You are a good writer. And so easy to understand.

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