Personal diplomacy

This past week I watched a 7-minute video clip done by the History channel about George W. Bush’s soon-to-be-released portrait paintings. Now before you tune me out or react, this blog has nothing to do with Bush’s policies or positions. I want to talk about him as a human being. What I saw in this short video clip about him was a true model of how we, as believers, should be interacting with others.  Bush calls it “personal diplomacy.”

As you know, we are called to be ambassadors for Christ in II Corinthians 5:20:

 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

You’ve heard it said that we should win the person, not the argument. That might be an overused phrase, so I want to put a fresh twist on it by saying that you should strive to know the people you are sharing with well enough to be able to paint them.












Bush painted Tony Blair as a man of conviction, because that’s how he saw him.

Bush painted Ellen Johnson Sirleaf as strong and capable, because that’s how he saw her.

Bush painted Juichiro Koizumi as a fun guy (an Elvis lover!), because that’s how he saw him.

Now I know we are not all painters, but think about really listening to someone, really studying them, seeing their face and expressions, coming to truly know them as a person, their likes and dislikes, their passions and pursuits – so that IF you were a painter, you could paint them.  Know them that well. Study them that much. I imagine Jesus looked in this way at the woman at the well, Zacchaeus, Nicodemus, the rich young ruler, and maybe even Pilate.

Professor Jerram Barrs, Professor of Christian Studies and Contemporary Culture at Covenant Seminary says that we ought to look for the image of God in every person. Wherever a person is reflecting their creator who made them, we can connect and get to know them, whether it is through gardening or art or communication or travel or love for coffee. George W. Bush says “I spent a lot of time on personal diplomacy and I befriended leaders. I learned about their families and their likes and dislikes to the point where I felt comfortable painting them.”

Bush tells of a time when the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia and he had a real difference of opinion. The Prince was threatening to leave the talks. Bush knew that he had a farm and loved his land. So Bush invited the Prince to his ranch where they could share their love for the land. Bush says he became very fond of the Crown Prince, soon to be King. A bridge was built, and the Prince stayed.

Of course you have to be genuine in your desire to know others as people. Don’t turn this into a technique just to get to share the gospel. Many times you will see others come into the kingdom. Jerram Barrs shares how he connected with his step-father through gardening, when he was having difficulty relating to him otherwise. Years later, his English step-father came to Christ when he visited Jerram’s garden in St. Louis. But we cannot always count on such results. We must speak truth clearly and in love, and that will yield unpredictable results. (See this blog.) Results are not up to you.

What is up to you is to be a faithful ambassador of Christ, to build bridges and make connections, to see others as people made in the image of God – to know them well enough to paint them.

~ Betsy McPeak




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