The details don’t matter. I had to deal with the bureaucracy on behalf of someone else. I assumed my informal advocacy would be of little avail, but it seemed worth a try. Who knew the person on the other end of the line would be the Best Bureaucrat.
As our conversation began, I explained my friend’s problem as best I could. The Best Bureaucrat listened well and asked clarifying questions. When it became clear to her that I do not speak bureaucratese, she immediately switched to English. Again she listened well as I tried to describe the dilemma in which my friend found himself. The Best Bureaucrat did not recommend I fill out a form or read a publication. She listened and explained and made sure I understood what she was saying, just as she made sure she understood what I was saying.
Once we were clear about the problem my friend needed to solve, the Best Bureaucrat went to work. I would have to call another office. The Best Bureaucrat told me what to ask for, and, by the way, what not to say. She described for me the place my friend would want to be after all the questions were answered and all the information provided. Our goal was not a completed form, but the particular benefits my friend deserved.
At one point during our conversation I asked the Best Bureaucrat if I could expect the bureaucrats in the office I needed to call to be as helpful as she had been. “Oh, probably not,” she responded quickly. And then she added, “You see, I am working from home and they don’t monitor my calls.”
So it turns out that as the Best Bureaucrat and I were talking, our call was not being monitored for quality assurance. There was no supervisor listening in to be sure the Best Bureaucrat spoke only bureaucratese, that she did not take the time to listen for what I was saying or tell me how to cut through all the red tape, that all the forms that would be of no use to my friend were properly completed.
I never asked for the name of the best bureaucrat, and I won’t tell you for which bureau she works. I would hate for her to get in trouble for being so helpful.
The apostle Paul declares the Christian to be an ambassador for Christ. (2 Corinthians 5:20). Just as the Roman ambassador had authority to speak and act on behalf of the Emperor, so the Christian bears the privilege and the heavy responsibility of speaking and acting on behalf Christ. We carry the King’s message: “be reconciled to God.”
In some ways we Christians are also bureaucrats for the Kingdom. Our job is to help others receive the benefits of grace and faith, hope and love. Like the Best Bureaucrat, we must listen well and ask the right questions – and then listen again as our questions are answered. We must remember most of the people we meet don’t speak Christianese and that we may need to translate the gospel into their language. Our goal is not a particular prayer prayed or the right Bible app loaded. Our goal is the benefits of the gospel received through grace and faith, with hope and love.
Unlike the Best Bureaucrat who is free to be helpful because her supervisor is not listening in on her conversations for quality assurance, our Supervisor is always listening in. And his intent is that we listen well, take time, and speak grace and faith, hope and love on his behalf.
See you Sunday