So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. (2 Corinthians 5:16-20)
“All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.” (Hebrews 11:19-21)
Weird question: have you ever thought of America as a foreign country? Have you ever thought of yourself as an ex-pat living in a place that is not actually your home?
Kinda strange, huh?
And yet this perspective is at least part of how the Scriptures call us to live out our Christian faith. We are “aliens,” “strangers” – “sojourners,” some translations say. And yet that does not mean that we simply wander about the surface of the earth in aimless waiting between conversion and death. We’ve actually been assigned an important duty: We are ambassadors of the kingdom!
Admittedly, it feels strange to think of myself as an ambassador to the nation in which I was born and in which I have always had my permanent home. But entrance into the kingdom of God and allegiance to Christ the King means a shift in citizenship that we need to take seriously. We can have all sorts of theological debates about how exactly our citizenship in the kingdom impacts and/or interacts with our American citizenship, but I’m not particularly interested in wading into those here. I hope we can all agree that, whatever other “hats” we wear, kingdom citizenship is a ten-gallon hat that gets worn over all of them (did I mention I’m originally from Texas?). In other words, being an ambassador of the kingdom ought to be our primary identity, regardless of how we hash out the way it interacts with other identities.
In job applications for Christian colleges and universities, I sometimes see questions like: “how does your faith affect your scholarship?” or “how would you teach history from a Christian perspective?” On one level, the questions strike me as odd. Do “Christian” historians use different research methods from their non-Christian colleagues? Not if they’re good historians. Do “Christian” teachers make sure there are no non-Christians in the room, then whisper, “Okay, guys, here’s what REALLY happened”? I hope not. And yet, every history course, history book, history podcast, etc, DOES have an intended target audience! I teach quite differently, for example, in my first-year survey courses where almost no one is a history major than I do in my upper-level courses where I have almost nothing but majors. And my learning objectives for such classes are quite different, too.
So, cards on the table: the target audience of this blog is fellow American Christians. And the overriding “learning objective” is to help them become better ambassadors within the American context. In short, we are trying to understand American Christians’ current ministry context (the American present) by studying how that context came to be (the American past).
Blog entries will serve as ambassadorial briefs, if you will—short insights into the history of the land of your sojourn that I hope prove helpful as you try to discern how best to love, serve, and represent God in her midst.
This will have several important repercussions for how this blog goes:
1) Entries will be informal both in tone and in structure. While I am a scholar, these are not scholarly writings.
2) Entries will not have footnotes or endnotes. If you’re curious where I’m getting certain information from or where you can learn more about a particular topic, leave a comment, and I’ll do my best to interact with your concerns there.
3) It also means that we’ll usually be looking at things from a bird’s-eye view. We’ll be doing quite a bit of “big picture” summary stuff, often without much in the way of nitty gritty details and without mounds of evidence to back up each assertion. That said, I do promise not to make any assertions that aren’t defensible from the historical evidence (flashes friendly smile). Again, if you want to continue the conversation in the comments, feel free to do so.
4) This will also determine what topics we cover and how much time we spend on them. Again, my goal is not to give you an exhaustive understanding of American history, but rather to give you a series of insights into how the United States of today came to be so that you are better equipped to minister within her midst.
So, again, welcome to your new post, ambassador!