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Embassy of Heavenby Duane Mabee on September 1, 2022
There are a number of metaphors used in the New Testament to describe the church. The church is the body of Christ and the bride of Christ. We are called a living temple, the household of God, and a family. Each of these metaphors communicate specific concepts that should be true of each local church.
Paul hints at another metaphor when he calls himself an “ambassador in chains” in Ephesians 6:20. If we, like Paul, are ambassadors for Christ, then each local church is an embassy. What does that picture of the church communicate?
An embassy represents the interests of one nation to another nation within the confines of the host nation. It is an outpost of sorts. It officially speaks for its nation of origin, representing its interests and protecting its citizens living or travelling in the foreign nation.
When you step into an American embassy, you are considered to be on American soil, even though the embassy may be located in France or Germany. Inside the embassy, you will encounter the culture of the embassy’s home nation. You will hear the language of the home nation. The U.S. embassy has the authority of the U.S. government to speak on behalf of the United States and is recognized by the host nation as doing so.
If the church is an embassy of heaven, we should expect to find the culture of heaven inside the church. We should expect to hear the language of heaven, and we should expect to find people living by the rules and customs of heaven. But we are like foreign workers in that embassy. We don’t come in already steeped in the culture of heaven. We have to learn it.
One of the reasons Christ calls us to gather together in local churches is to help us learn the culture of heaven. Hansen and Leeman in their book Rediscover Church contend that we must gather together as a church is to learn the culture of heaven and be shaped together as a people. As we center our gatherings around the Word of God, we learn the heavenly culture that should characterize us as a distinct people. As we do, we become heaven’s ambassadors in our communities, neighborhoods, schools and families.
You cannot acclimate to a culture if you aren’t immersed in it. You cannot learn to interact appropriately without rubbing shoulders with others and navigating misunderstandings and miscommunications. Church is about a lot more than the transfer of information. It’s about learning to live together as citizens of a culture that is foreign to us by nature.