By Pastor Bill Mugford
Why Don’t We Churches Start HIV&AIDS Ministries? Part 2C • Challenging Denial
In previous parts of this blog series, we stated that both people in our community and many Christians still live in denial about HIV&AIDS, and it is crucially important to inform denial with factual education and transform denial with theological wisdom. Five of ten ways we are in denial have been covered in Parts 2A-B. In the remaining parts of this section on denial, all of us in faith communities are asked to consider how our misapprehension of the Gospel contributes to denial and what understanding a Biblical Gospel can do to help us care for people living with HIV&AIDS and their families and friends.
6. We live in denial when we believe that HIV&AIDS and people living with the virus and its complications are beyond the compassionate grace of God…
HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is a virus and AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) is simply the compromise-to-destruction of the human immune system due to HIV infection to the extent that an HIV+ person is unable to fight off normally non-life-threatening opportunistic infections and/or develops susceptibilities and complications which may be somewhat unique to living with HIV&AIDS. Being a virus, HIV is “amoral,” indiscriminately infecting anyone it can. HIV as a virus is therefore outside the parameters of moral judgment and may be considered as no different than the virus that causes the common cold or viri that may occasion the development of cancer.
Worldwide, there are many Christians living with HIV&AIDS, and millions of “innocents,” experiencing the grace of God throughout their difficulties, have died as the result of HIV&AIDS. Honestly, I have yet to meet any person who either wanted an HIV infection or wished to infect another with it, which may be interpreted as meaning that all but a few HIV infections could be thought of as innocently – not willingly - caused.
We sometimes hear, “HIV&AIDS are God’s judgment on those who are infected.” While it is true that all behaviors have consequences which we experience as good or bad, intended or unintended, salvific or sinful, it is also true that all human choices and their consequences are within the scope of the love of God and grace of the Gospel, “The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it,” Psalm 24:1, a truth which includes both the material and moral universe.
Consequently, if no person living with HIV and/or AIDS is outside the love and grace of God, then those of us who say that we experience and represent the love and grace of God should be the very first to help a person living with HIV&AIDS!
The import of Jesus’ story of the “God Samaritan” (not misspelled, explained later), Luke 10:25-37, is that God’s fearless compassion and grace is available to all and that the care and cure of both soul and body is embraced by the Gospel and should be a goal of every Christian and church. In fact, all therapies available to people living with HIV and/or AIDS should be considered signs of God’s grace, whether they come from a faith community preaching and practicing the Gospel or science, medicine, nutrition and other contributors. All grace is God’s grace.
7. We live in denial when we do not S.T.A.R.T. and develop HIV&AIDS ministries in and through the local and global church…
Many Christians and the churches they call “home” are not havens for people living with HIV&AIDS (PLWHA). Tragically, PLWHA who disclose their status are often either unceremoniously booted from or benignly neglected by both liberal and conservative faith communities.
In many churches, we recite this, or a similar, Prayer of Confession: “Most merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone. We have not loved you with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We are truly sorry and we humbly repent. For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ, have mercy on us and forgive us; that we may delight in your will, and walk in your ways, to the glory of your Name. Amen.” Yet, we seldom stop to focus on the fact that serving people living with HIV&AIDS and their families and friends is a practical part of our worship. One way that we truly love God and our neighbors is to accept the Gospel responsibility to help the sick, suffering or those in need.
The first Christian community was so attractive to the surrounding culture precisely because testimony matched task with a loving and integrated Gospel of clear salvation, compassionate pastoral care, active advocacy and effective partnership, Acts 2:42-47. In fact, Jesus taught that judgment rightly comes to those who profess but not meet the practical needs of others in their pursuit of the Gospel, Matthew 25:31-46.
Every church can S.T.A.R.T. a meaningful and effective HIV&AIDS ministry in its community. Visit and watch the video at http://hivaidsinitiative.com/initiative/whatwedo/ to see how.
Want to continue to defeat denial in our faith communities with a little more Gospel truth and facts about HIV&AIDS? Join us for the next installment!