Tuesday, January 29, 2008

How to Think Like a Christian About HIV/AIDS

HIV/AIDS is the greatest health and humanitarian crisis of my lifetime. It is not just a problem in the USA. In fact, here it is much less severe than in other parts of the world, especially Africa. There are many aspects to this problem, but one of the biggest has been the failure of the Christian church to minister to, care about or love those afflicted with AIDS. Here are some thoughts.

Many of those who are infected with HIV contracted it from illegal drug use and/or illicit sexual relationships. This means that education should be a big part of any HIV program. All people, regardless of where they live, should have access to information concerning the dangers of sharing needles and unprotected sex. It is incumbent on Christians to take the lead in this process. Jesus called us to care for all people. Jesus himself was interested in every part of life. He healed dozens of people with physical problems. The obvious implication is that Jesus wants us to care about those with HIV. Share information.

But what of those already infected? What about those who have engaged in sinful behavior and are now sick? What would Jesus do? The church has too often stood back in judgement of those who have this illness. We enjoy pointing toward the sin and offering words of condemnation and judgment. Never mind that Jesus went around forgiving people of their sins. In fact, he forgave people who did not even ask to be forgiven. What a revolutionary idea. We should be offering grace and forgiveness to those who have sinned. We should be showing love and demonstrating the goodness of Jesus.

And then there are those men and women (and children) who are completely innocent. They have not used drugs. They have not had unsafe sex. They exhibit none of the so-called "risky behaviors." These victims are the ones who contracted HIV when a husband or wife brought it home to them. These are the children who were born with HIV.

We must not abandon them. We must show them the love of Jesus. We should help them to find the medical care that they need. We should follow the admonition of Jesus in Matthew 25 to visit the sick. We should be ministering to these who need our ministry the most.

Finally, we need to consider the orphans. In parts of Africa, AIDS orphans are a huge part of the population. They are a burden on extended family members. They drain the resources of their families, villages and communities. These children, through no fault of their own, are completely unwanted in their world.

Again, it is imperative that church solve this problem. It is the command of Jesus that we care for everyone. It is the commission of Jesus that we take the gospel to the whole world. That includes taking the message to those places that are hard, sad and uncomfortable. The church, you and I, must care for all people.

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