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Jesus Mingled With People


Editor's Note: We apologise for the lateness in posting last week's commentary. The author provided the commentary in plenty of time, the fault is entirely the editor's, who would like to express their appreciation to Tami Cinquemani for her contribution. The article is highlighted again in order to revisit this discussion.

June was a difficult month in Orlando.  It began with the murder of The Voice singer Christina Grimmie and ended with the death of a 2-year-old boy from Nebraska who was killed by an alligator.  However, the greatest impact came with the mass shooting of 49 victims at the Pulse, a LGBTQ nightclub in downtown Orlando. Our community was in shock—grieving and seeking answers to such senseless loss.

Churches throughout the Central Florida area offered support, counselling, and facilities.  Christ Church in Orlando, just five doors down from the Pulse, became a hub for police and FBI.  Their doors were open 24/7, offering food, water, and air-conditioned space to work and rest.  The Christian community reached out to participate in the grief.

“Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep.  Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all!” Romans 12:15-16

Jesus was clear in word and example that those claiming his name would be known as servants and lovers of their community, sharing mercy and seeking justice.  It seems plain and simple in the face of such tragic circumstances, and the faith community in Orlando stepped up.  The church became the Church.

Jesus cared for those in crisis, but he also regularly mingled and shared life with those whom the religious considered unworthy—the “greater sinners.”  This was not accepted by the religious leaders, and they condemned him.

Later, Matthew invited Jesus and his disciples to his home as dinner guests, along with many tax collectors and other disreputable sinners.  But when the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with such scum?”

When Jesus heard this, he said, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do.” Then he added, “Now go and learn the meaning of this Scripture: ‘I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices.’For I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.”  Matthew 9:10-13

Jesus’ words were direct. Those placing themselves in the position of judge and jury were ignorant of the true meaning of Scripture and had used it as a manipulative club rather than the grace-filled story of God’s love for his children.  Jesus chose to mingle with his community and showed neither partiality nor fear of somehow compromising God’s character. Since that was the case, it was no surprise when he was called upon during a crisis by those with whom he had made relationships.  

Christ's method alone will give true success in reaching the people. The Saviour mingled with men as one who desired their good. He showed His sympathy for them, ministered to their needs, and won their confidence. Then He bade them, ‘Follow Me.’"MH, 143

I wonder if it isn’t more of a challenge—but more essential—that Christians take seriously Christ’s call to love, accept, mingle with, and care for their community when times are normal and without crisis.  Were we taking this commission seriously and sharing life on a regular basis with those in our community, would it not be the natural thing for them to look eagerly toward us for support when a crisis arose?

But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be the slave of everyone else.  For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.”Mark 10:43-45

For the whole law can be summed up in this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”Galatians 5:14

Sadly, such was not the case in Orlando—at least not for those connected to the Pulse shooting. At best, offers of help from Christians were met with surprise, at worse suspicion and disdain.  Unfortunately, the LGBTQ community was used to being viewed by Christians as the “greater sinners.”  They knew the judgmental language and the carefully chosen Scriptures that had been used as weapons long before the gunman entered their club.

Condemn us out of one side of their mouth and "love" us once we're dead. NO THANKS.

I hope no one will take them up on their offer. I have a bad feeling like it's a trap as well. Getting those people in there to try to force them into ‘repenting’ while they are at their most vulnerable.

These are actual comments[1] in response to churches offering their facilities for funeral services for victims of the shooting.  Cynical? Maybe, but who can blame them?  Though there are a growing number of churches working out this conversation with their community as a whole, many still maintain an “us and them” mentality. In doing so, they avoid integral members of the community they condemn as unqualified for access into the body of believers.

Where would those marginalized before the shooting have experienced the love, the acceptance, the encouragement, or the absence of name-calling from these congregations?  When did these churches mingle with the community as a whole without some hidden agenda?

This problem is not new.  The Bible details a history of God’s people jealously keeping “the others,” those they consider unworthy of God’s grace, outside of their “club.”  But is that really our job? Or is our job simply to love?

Jesus replied, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:37-40

Christ was born as Emmanuel, God with Us, so we could get a clear understanding of Who God is. (Isaiah 7:14) and what it would look like for Him to mingle with humanity.  Where the religious leaders of his day, as well as those of our day, get caught up in bits and pieces of Scripture – proof text verses here and there – Jesus understood the Bible was meant to be understood as a whole, and he lived that complete story of God’s extravagant love, grace, and redemption.

In my perfect world, this terrible tragedy can be redeemed as the first step in making a holy change.  Maybe if the Christians in Orlando become an example of setting aside the misguided religious weapons, silencing the marginalizing labels, and breaking down the un-Christ-like barriers, our communities will begin to experience the touch of Jesus and look forward to mingling with us on a regular basis, in the good times as well as the bad. 

Tami Cinquemani is Worship Pastor at the Florida Hospital Church in Orlando, FL.

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