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Don't Be An Ugly American

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Don't Be An Ugly American

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In the late '50s, Bill Lederer and Eugene Burdick wrote a book titled The Ugly American. It speaks of the appalling behavior of many American tourists and diplomats as visitors in foreign lands. Only a few American ambassadors went to the trouble to learn the language or study the culture of the countries they had been assigned. American tourists often acted with superiority and arrogance toward those in the host country.

The prevailing attitude was, "We are American-look how great and wealthy our country is. We do everything better. The rest of the world should learn to live like we do." Billions of dollars of foreign assistance was sent to feed and help other nations in those years, but incompetence and arrogance nullified much good will that should have come to America for those efforts.

We Are Ambassadors for Christ!

Shortly, we'll be leaving our homes to journey to distant sites to keep God's feasts. We'll be going as Christ's ambassadors! "So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us…." (2 Corinthians 5:20, NRSV). We're called to be the salt of the earth, lights shining in a world of darkness-God's special, chosen people-His emissaries! Whether our destination is a hundred miles away or 10,000, each of us represents God and a part of His end-time work to those we come in contact with. Our lives, our conduct, should be a living witness of the message of the Kingdom of God.

People will see us with our families as we gather to worship God and celebrate Holy Days at a time when the rest of the world is at work or in school. We will be noticed, people will wonder about us and the Church. They may think what we are doing is strange and peculiar. But even if they are critical about our religious practices, we shouldn't give them any reason to be critical about our behavior. As one person observing families at the Feast is reported to have said, I don't agree with their religion, but I sure like the way their children behave.

For most of them it will make sense in an age yet to come! "Having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation" (1 Peter 2:12).

God will cause people in the world tomorrow to remember the members they have come in contact with at the Feast or elsewhere. Satan will have been bound. The truth will be available for everyone to understand. The people will at that time learn about God's feasts instead of the holidays they had celebrated all their lives. And they'll make the connection between the truth they are now learning and the examples they saw back then.

A Witness First

After His resurrection, Christ was asked if it was the time for the Kingdom of Israel to be reestablished. "Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, 'Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?' And He said to them, 'It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority. But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth'" (Acts 1:6-8). Before God's Kingdom is established, His disciples must take a witness of Him and His truth throughout all the world. Today, His followers are still bearing witness of the true Christ in all the earth. Oftentimes, a personal example can be a far more powerful witness than an article written in a magazine.

Many sports figures, movie stars and musicians say they have never asked to be role models for the kids, for others-nor do they want to be.

They don't want that burden. But like it or not, they are! They could have a great positive influence for many of the younger generation. Too often, their example is one that most of us would not want our children to emulate. We may not have asked to be lights and examples of the true way of life either, but that came as part of our calling. Hopefully, when people see us and our families at the Feast, they will see happiness, love and respect reflected in them.

Paul spoke of becoming all things to all men (see 1 Corinthians 9:22). He is not saying that he was abandoning his Christian principles to live like people in the world, but that he tried to relate to and understand people of all cultures and races. We should ask ourselves how we look to those people who live where we go to celebrate the Feast. Our actions, our demeanor-how does it come across? Are we kind, friendly, humble people? Are we patient in the restaurants and grocery stores? Patience, kindness and friendliness are traits that are probably seen too infrequently by the waitresses and clerks. Surprise them, be different!


Some of the Jews who came to where John was baptizing exhibited pride in their ethnic origin. They considered themselves God's chosen people by virtue of being descendants of Abraham. And they were! This birthright was a tremendous blessing. It was not something they had earned. No one chooses who their parents will be or where they will be born. Because of Abraham's obedience, his descendants were heirs to many spiritual and physical blessings. This birthright blessing carried with it bountiful physical blessings plus a knowledge of and relationship with the Creator. But it was an unearned right of birth.

How would it be viewed? What impact would it have upon the recipients? Would they be humbly grateful or would they feel superior to others? Would they want to share it or would they selfishly exclude others? God intended for Abraham's children, Israel, to share the knowledge of the truth with the nations around them. Christ told His disciples, "freely you have received, freely give" (Matthew 10:8).

John warned them against having a proud and arrogant attitude. "Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance, and do not think to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father.' For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones" (Matthew 3:8-9). In order to continue as true seed of Abraham, they must live as Abraham lived. They didn't and they were replaced-not by stones, but by a spiritual nation composed of both Jews and gentiles.

We are the new Israel, spiritual Israel, God's chosen. How humbly grateful we should be, not proud. It is not something we have earned. We have absolutely no reason to feel superior to others who will learn these same truths later. We are privileged to be the firstfruits, to have knowledge that even prophets and kings longed to understand, but couldn't. We're a part of the beginning of God's great plan in bringing salvation to this earth. For God we are to be a starting point, not a conclusion.

Paul reminded the gentiles who had been grafted into the Church, the olive plant, to not let pride and arrogance destroy them.

"For if the firstfruit is holy, the lump is also holy; and if the root is holy, so are the branches. And if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive tree, were grafted in among them, and with them became a partaker of the root and fatness of the olive tree, do not boast against the branches. But if you do boast, remember that you do not support the root, but the root supports you. You will say then, 'Branches were broken off that I might be grafted in.' Well said. Because of unbelief they were broken off, and you stand by faith. Do not be haughty, but fear. For if God did not spare the natural branches, He may not spare you either. Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off" (Romans 11:16-22). The replacements could also be rejected.

American television is available by satellite all over the world. It gives people a distorted view of what America is like. All that many see are what is portrayed in sit-coms, soap operas and MTV. This is hardly an accurate representation of what life is like for the average American. In like manner, people have a false and distorted idea of what true Christianity is like. Many have been pressured to come and join this or that church. They see people that live one way on one day of the week and differently on other days. They see through the facade of piety.

Christ wants the people of this world to look at His servants and see what real Christians are like. He wants them to see the fruits of the Spirit portrayed in the daily lives of His people in the 21st century-the fruits of genuine love, joy, peace, patience, etc.

We must not be like the ugly American tourist who looks down his nose at others-who treats the waitress as someone who is there to serve us. There is no better time to apply the golden rule-treat all those we come in contact with at the Feast as we would want to be treated if we were doing their job. A friendly, smiling face is a welcome sight, and it doesn't cost a thing.

God said that one of the things we are to learn at the Feast is to learn to rejoice. You can do this by spreading joy wherever you go. David stated in the Psalm 23, "Goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life." Let your trail be littered with kindness, patience and goodness. Go and rejoice! Let that joy spill out on the community where you go. Be Christ's shining ambassadors during the Feast! UN