Diplomatic immunity is a principle of international law that exempts certain foreign government officials from the laws of local courts and governments. In other words, a diplomat or ambassador from another country cannot be arrested for violating the laws of the host country. If Ambassador Rufus T. Firefly of Freedonia parks illegally in New York City and amasses 20 parking tickets, he does not have to pay them, and the city can do nothing about it. The Good Ambassador is exempt from the penalties of his actions.
Many Christians attempt to portray the Christian life as a carefree tiptoe through the tulips. We hesitate to admit that troubles stalk us as they do anyone else. We get so desperate to lead people to Christ that we paint their future A.D. life as rosy as their B.C. life was thorny. We are afraid that people will see our struggles and say, “What’s so good about being a Christian if you still have troubles? You’re no better off than I am!” We act as if membership in the Kingdom of God entitles us to diplomatic immunity.
According to the Bible, when we become Christians, we become Christ’s representatives in a foreign land: “We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God” (2 Corinthians 5:20). We become citizens of heaven (Philippians 3:20) with a message from the King. But we do not become exempt from the laws of the land or the penalties of our own behavior.
In Justin Martyr’s First Apology, he argued that Christians, more than anyone, endeavor to obey the laws of their countries in obedience to Christ. He based this on Paul’s letter to the Romans: “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God” (13:1), and Titus: “Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good” (Titus 3:1). Christians should be model citizens, who, unlike Ambassador Firefly, do not look for opportunities to get away with anything.
In fact, the Bible warns us that we are not only not exempt from the laws of life, but that there will be judgment for our works. We know that the judgment for our sins was taken care of at the cross, but that doesn’t mean that we can live any way we want without fear of penalty. Paul reminds us: “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad” (2 Corinthians 5:10). We will receive or lose rewards based on our behavior. Peter gives a more humbling scenario: “Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter. For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God? Now ‘If the righteous one is scarcely saved, where will the ungodly and the sinner appear?’” (2 Peter 4:16-18).
Those who paint a rosy picture of the Christian life are not coloring inside the lines. Yes, we are free from the Old Testament Law, but not free to run wild in theological anarchy. There is still the law of sowing and reaping (Galatians 6:7). We are bound by the law of Christ: “Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2). And Christians are the most persecuted people group today. We still live in a fallen world and experience the same trials and sufferings and indignities and temptations as anyone and everyone else. We do not have diplomatic immunity in this world.
So, what’s the big deal about being a Christian if we are not immune to the struggles of life? What’s the point of coming to Christ if he is not going to shield us from all harm? The difference is victory.
The Christian has been guaranteed ultimate victory over death: Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25, 26). This is the hope that transcends all earthly woes.
There is also the promise of victory over each trial through faith and obedience. We have a support system that the world does not understand. Although the principles and remedies in God’s Word are too extensive to mention here, they can be summed up in a biblical nutshell: “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33, NKJV).
We may not have diplomatic immunity, but we are part of an aristocratic community (Revelation 1:6)!
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