There were times during this past summer’s fire season that my frustration levels reached epic proportions. And it wasn’t because I was having trouble breathing or my eyes were burning, although on a couple of days that was certainly the case. My frustration was on behalf of visitors to our valley. Driving around town one day I saw vehicles loaded with camping gear. They were obviously coming to our valley and surrounding mountains for a long-awaited vacation, expecting to enjoy the beauty of the area. Instead, everything was so hazy that the Sierras and Whites were virtually invisible that day. I wanted to yell out that this wasn’t the way it was supposed to be. Something was wrong; they weren’t getting a true picture of the Owens Valley with its stunning mountains.

I thought about tapping on the car window and mouthing a disclaimer to passing motorists, but I’m not sure they would have paid attention. What they were seeing would have cancelled out anything I was trying to say to them. Maybe the electronic road sign on the south end of town could have flashed, “We’re sorry. You’re not seeing things the way they’re supposed to be.”

As I thought of the smoke affecting our valley and giving a distorted image of how things should have been, I wondered if that’s not what happens sometimes when people view those of us who represent Christ. We can mouth all the words we want, telling people the way things “should” be, while in reality they are seeing a much different story by the way we live our lives. And that should cause our eyes to burn with tears of remorse.

As believers, we are ambassadors for Christ, appointed by God to represent Him. In 2 Corinthians 5:17-21, we find our job description and our marching orders. Verse 17 reminds us “therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold the new things have come.” But this is where things can get a bit hazy. What about those unexplained blazes in our lives? Even believers have times when we find it difficult to leave the old ways behind. When this happens, people are not seeing a true picture of God because we’re not living in obedience to Him. People won’t be drawn to Christ if they don’t see evidence of a “new life” in us. The mountains were there that day, you just couldn’t see them. When God is obscured, that’s where 1 John 1:9 comes in to play. Repent, confess and allow God’s forgiveness to clear the air.

We have been reconciled to God through what Christ did for us on the cross and now, as ambassadors, we have been given the ministry of reconciliation. That sounds rather daunting. How can we possibly be an ambassador for God? It’s certainly not because of our background or training, and it’s not because we wrote the best résumé for the job. Back in 2 Corinthians, Paul makes this incredible statement in verse 21: “He made Him (Jesus) who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” Anything that we do to show Christ to an unbelieving world is possible because of what Christ first did for us. God’s grace and love for all mankind is there, available to men and women everywhere. God wants the world to see clearly what He can do in the life of a believer. Check the “air quality” of your life—for yourself and for others.