(This is the third in a series of posts drawing analogies between experiences that Ambassador Joseph Grew shared about in his book Ten Years in Japan and practical aspects of being an ambassador for Jesus Christ.)
Ambassador Grew wrote in his book (which is an extract from his diary) that Mrs. Woodrow Wilson visited with he and his wife Alice on October 24, 1932. The three of them spent a number of hours together. He noted that Mrs. Wilson said something important during their visit: “that a smile goes a long way in Japan.”
Ambassador Grew noted that he had also seen how important it was to smile and the impact that a smile can have. He had specifically noticed the impact his wife had when she went out for exercise and smiled at the many people she came in contact with.
I was struck by the realization that the wife of the Ambassador (who was not even the official representative) was positively representing her country while in a foreign land simply by smiling at people.
Why is a smile important for an ambassador? And what does the smile represent? I believe the smile of an ambassador represents several important things.
First, if you see someone from another country always smiling, it makes you want to learn more about the country they are from. If the country you are living in is full of depressed and angry people (yourself included), and everyone from a neighboring country that you’ve ever met are living lives overflowing with joy and peace, you will likely have a strong desire to visit (or move to) the other nation so you, too, can be joyful.
Jesus has left us with His joy and peace, and our hearts should be full!
John 14:27 “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you.”
John 15:11 “These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.”
Second, when a person or representative from another country smiles, it projects an acceptance of you. When soldiers from two nations meet on a field of battle, they do not share smiles; you would see looks of grim determination on their faces â€“ they are seeking to harm each other. And yet those same soldiers, if they are seeking to build relationships with the citizens of a foreign country, will smile and wave at the people they come in contact with. In such cases, the smile is a sign of good will.
Jesus specifically encouraged His followers to salute more than just friends and relatives.
Matthew 5:47 And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?
The Greek word translated “salute” is aspazomai, and Strong’s Greek & Hebrew Dictionary gives much greater meeting to the word: “To salute one, greet, bid welcome, wish well to; to receive joyfully. Used of those who greet one whom they meet in the way; a salutation was made not merely by a slight gesture and a few words, but generally by embracing and kissing, a journey was retarded frequently by saluting.”
Are we properly representing our heavenly kingdom by “saluting” (which would at least involve a friendly smile) those we come in contact with?