This past March my university had their annual "Green Beer Day" in honor of St. Patrick’s Day. It so happened that this holiday was on the same day as our weekly Campus Crusade meeting, where we usually get about 300 people together for worship and a message. About 100 hundred people showed up, and I made the comment that probably a lot of people where uptown for Green Beer Day. What I got from the girl to whom I made the remark was shock and disbelief.
"Crusade people, Roman?! Are you kidding?!" she replied.
I was kind of surprised. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not for the overindulgence of alcohol, but we must recognize that in any ministry, you are ministering to sinners who often have little regard for the Bible or its claims. We seem to have the idea that ministry is this pretty package that makes naughty amoral people into good moral people, and no one who is "too far gone" has any right being there in the first place. We have been called to give light to the blind that they may see. In his relation to the church in Corinth, St. Paul was in the exact same place that we often find ourselves.
The Corinthian church wasn’t the ideal church; it was smack dab in the middle of the most immoral, sinful city of that time. To give you an idea of what it was like, all over the Ancient Roman Empire, prostitutes were known as "Corinthian girls" because of this city. The city was immoral, and by osmosis the church was wretched. Yet Paul didn’t turn his back on them, nor did he just "put-up with them" while he ministered to them. Paul did scold them—and with good reason—but he loved them and gave himself to them whole-heartedly. Paul said that he would boast of the Corinthians on the day of the Lord Jesus. Later he told them he had opened wide his heart to them without withholding his affection from them. He also told them he spoke to them as his own children. This is the attitude and feelings Paul had towards these people, who had issues with incest, suing each other, division, hatred and chaos in their meetings.
This is an easy, and even natural, attitude to take towards the socialites and populars. But what happens to us when the gangs walk into our youth groups, or the prostitutes walk into our Wednesday night prayer meeting? What stirs in us when the homeless vagabond meanders into the back of our church—our hearts or our stomachs? It breaks my heart to hear ministry leaders saying things like, "They need to leave and never come back," or "Those kids just don’t belong here."
If that’s what ministry is, then count me out of it because I don’t even want to be identified with that ideology. I still remember the days when I didn’t belong in a youth group or a Bible study. The reason I am here today is because of the very fact that a few people knew that ministry is to reach out to those who are not a part of the church, who are not a part of the "in-crowd." If we, the very sons and daughters of God, shut out the undesirables, who else do they have to turn to? Jesus befriended the drunks, prostitutes and sinners, and because of that, they came to know Him and testify to Him. My understanding of Christ is that He was a friend of sinners. His crowd was tax collectors, fishermen, betrayers and even one who advocated defying Rome with violence. The moment we lose this characteristic of Christ in ourselves, we have lost any claim to love that we had. We serve Jesus Christ, the, to quote Reese Roper, "Savior of the prostitutes, drunkards, rapists and the gays." Let us not forget them.
[Roman Comer is a 21-year-old student at Miami University. When he actually gets some free time, he likes to read and take photographs.]
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