Editorial

And I Did Something!

By

We have lived to see the day when millions of people expend more energy fighting viruses on their computers than in their own bodies. After all, we can ill afford to have to shut down our computer system and not complete our work. Since one of my hobbies is building and repairing computers, it has frequently been my pleasure to tell someone I was able to rid their system of a debilitating virus.

There are millions of others who are living with viruses they can’t get rid of, and a slow, painful death is never far from their thoughts. The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) causes acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, and the whole world is now familiar with AIDS. HIV targets the same cells that were designed by God to protect us from illness. A weakened immune system destroys a person’s ability to ward off infectious diseases, eventually causing that person to die from an illness that normally would not have been fatal. The HIV-infected person can live many years without symptoms, often leading to the delay of treatments that might have added several years of life.

I distinctly remember first hearing about the AIDS epidemic. In the 1980s, many churchgoers assumed that the homosexual community was reaping what it had sown, and people used Romans 1:24–27 as proof that AIDS had been prophesied long ago. As HIV/AIDS spread to drug users and promiscuous heterosexuals, it was easy to conclude that the virus affected sinners, not saints.

Then, as we began to see pictures from AIDS-devastated countries in Africa, we were also awakened to the devastation in our own backyard. The availability of antiretroviral drugs in America kept many HIV-positive people from being treated like lepers, but we had to acknowledge that no community was spared. Many who were not guilty of sexual sin were now affected by the disease. What were we going to do?

As the Church’s ignorance toward HIV/AIDS patients diminishes, each of us must decide on a course of action. A massive effort is under way to move the Church to a higher level of involvement both abroad and at home, and we trust that the Spirit of God will energize the effort to save lives spiritually and physically.

The similarities between AIDS and our sinful nature have been acknowledged frequently. Just as those with HIV may not manifest symptoms while nonetheless succumbing to the virus, the sin inherent in our humanity destroys the solid citizen as well as the sociopath. The heart of man, which should be seeking the Lord with every fiber of its being (Deut. 4:29), is also the place where spiritual HIV has done its work, and we are deceived by our deadly condition (Jer. 17:9).

For most of us, the greater decision will be what to do when HIV/AIDS victims want to unite with our local churches. Have we educated our congregations well enough so that a person with AIDS would be welcomed without fear of the disease spreading? Can such a person join us in communion and worship without fear of being labeled and ostracized?

Every week, as our doors open to the public for worship, we should expect persons to enter who identify with the words of the psalmist:

I am bent over and racked with pain. All day I walk around filled with grief. A raging fever burns within me, and my health is broken. I am exhausted and completely crushed. My groans come from an anguished heart. You know what I long for, Lord; you hear my every sigh. My heart beats wildly, my strength fails, and I am going blind. My loved ones and friends stay away, fearing my disease. Even my own family stands at a distance (Ps. 38:6–11, NLT).

The family of God is the only one that has been given all the resources necessary for complete healthy living, and our hearts must be open to those suffering from the viruses running amok in their spiritual and physical bodies. We can ill afford to have to give an account of our actions and be judged as the heartless shepherds mentioned in Ezekiel’s prophecy: “‘You have not taken care of the weak. You have not tended the sick or bound up the injured. You have not gone looking for those who have wandered away and are lost. Instead, you have ruled them with harshness and cruelty’” (Ezek. 34:4).

When we get to the finish line of our lives and our race is completed, I hope each of us will be able to say honestly, “The Lord surrounded me with those who were lost and dying, and I did something that let them know how He loved them and gave Himself for them. I allowed His love to overcome my fear and feelings, and AIDS victims became participants of the victory found only in Jesus Christ.”

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