Christians are meant to be “ambassadors for Christ” (II Cor 5:20). Sadly, many Christians do a bad job and this makes Jesus Christ and Christianity look bad to non-Christians.
In a similar way, when we travel to other countries, we represent our own country. We are unpaid, unofficial ambassadors for the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia or wherever else we may come from.
Many people do not take this seriously, either.
An example of this took place a few days ago in Malaysia when a handful of western tourists (one person from the UK, one from the United States, an Australian, and two Canadian siblings), stripped on top of a mountain, exposing themselves and even having photos taken with nothing on.
They were just goofing off as many young people do. At home, they might have gotten away with it, or perhaps received a citation.
But, in Malaysia, a strict conservative mostly Muslim country, their juvenile display was deeply offensive. Even more so in the area around the mountain where the local people consider the mountain sacred, home to their ancestral spirits.
Shortly after their stupid act, there was an earthquake, which many locals attributed to the visitors’ misbehavior.
The perpetrators of this stupidity were given three days in prison and have had to pay a $1330 fine. They also have to apologize and are being deported.
They are fortunate. In some Muslim countries, they might have been stoned to death.
It’s not just that they did something wrong, an act that would be condemned anywhere in the world, their ignorance is also mind-boggling. Here they were in a Muslim nation doing something deeply offensive. They didn’t even realize how serious their misbehavior would be. Ignorance of the law is no excuse.
But their act also adds to a growing perception in the world, that westerners are degenerate. Whereas Victorian tourists knew how to dress and how to act in public, the last few decades has seen a drastic change in the people of the United States, Canada and Britain. Freedom has become license. Licentious behavior, once condemned every week in church, is now accepted. But our national reputation is tarnished by it.
An article I saw a few days ago told of a holiday resort in Spain that doesn’t want any more British tourists. They only go there to get drunk and fornicate, even on the beach in front of local families passing by. When people see this, it can’t help but affect their view of Britain, even though many British people would also be offended.
We are told that: “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people” (Proverbs 14:34).
Each one of us has a responsibility when we go overseas to set a good example, of proper and righteous behavior. For Christians, this is doubly important, as we not only represent our own nation but also Jesus Christ.