2 Corinthians 5.20
So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.
I love and loathe wearing my clergy collar when I’m out and about in public. I love the way it forces me to act like a Christian and the ways in which the faith breaks out from the walls of the church. And I loathe the awkward encounters it produces and the times in which I am compelled to defend the church from her detractors.
More often than not I don’t give much thought to what day I wear the collar or where I will be.
And sometimes I wish I was smarter about it.
When the time came for my second COVID vaccination shot I drove over to an abandoned department store and waited in line with hundreds of other people from the community. And it was only after I received the shot and sat socially distanced from the aforementioned crowds did I realize that I was wearing the collar.
And what made me realize my attire was the line that started to develop right in front of me of individuals who mistook me for a Catholic priest and asked if I would hear their confession.
Paul writes to the church in Corinth: “We are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us.” We, therefore, represent Christ and his church to those outside the church; we are strangers in a strange land.
And yet, with the privatization of faith, with faith often being something we do on Sundays and Sundays alone, there’s little reason to concern ourselves with ambassadorship. Unless we wear a cross around our necks, or a white collar around our throats, no one might ever know of our discipleship.
But then Paul has the nerve to remind us that some people will never see God except through us and the ways in which we exist in the world.
I have the benefit of representing the church not only because I am the pastor of one, but also because I walk around with my clergy collar. And when I dress that way I am forced to act like a Christian whether I want to or not. It is a constant and ever-ringing reminder that I am called to act, think, live, speak, and behave like a Christian.
And, though it pains me to admit, sometimes I need to wear the collar in order to live out my faith.
Without it hanging around my neck it is all too easy to fade in among the crowd and pretend like I’m not an ambassador for anything but myself.
So when I sat in the post-apocalyptic department store and the line developed in front of me, I listened to each person rattle off their sins. I watched their eyes while they offered their pleas for pardon and assurance. I wanted to be like everyone else minding my own business. I wanted to flip through my phone for the required ten minutes of observation and then leave. But instead, I handed over the goods to each of my fellow Christians: “In the name of Jesus Christ, you are forgiven.”
Does that make me a better Christian than other Christians? Definitely not. “Reluctant” doesn’t do justice to the way I felt that day. And sadly, I know that, in large part, the only reason it happened and the only reason I responded was because of my outfit.
Which makes me wonder: What would it be like if all Christians in all places wore little white tabs around our necks? I mean, scripture does talk about “the priesthood of all believers.” Imagine how different the world would be if each and every Christian walked around knowing that everyone else had certain expectations about who we are and what we do.
It might just be the difference that makes all the difference.