By Bill Mugford
Pastor • Local HIV&AIDS Initiative
When the world gets together every two years to consider the
global realities of HIV&AIDS, participants at the International Conference
on AIDS often author a highly contextualized statement regarding the pandemic
and their vision for the present and future of people living with HIV&AIDS. This year is no exception, and the Melbourne
Declaration for 20th International Conference on AIDS, July 20th-25th,
2014, entitled “Nobody Left Behind,” may be read at http://www.aids2014.org/declaration.aspx.
The HIV&AIDS Initiative of Saddleback Church is going to
AIDS 2014 with a team of 18 people. We’ll
participate in the conference by attending sessions; hosting a booth;
advocating that all Christians should have compassion for, build community with
and provide real solutions for people living with HIV&AIDS; and
demonstrating at least 16 concrete ways that every church can build effective
As I was reading the Melbourne Declaration and following a
conversation with a dear friend, I began to ponder, “What would Jesus declare
at AIDS 2014?” Based on Jesus’ recorded
ministry in the Gospels and that of His disciples in the New Testament, I
imagine Jesus might declare at least the following (written in the first
• I AM HERE!
I promise to be with you always, whether by my immediate
presence, my Spirit or through the ministry of followers who truly and lovingly
represent me and serve others in self-sacrificial ministry as I directed they
should (John 14; Matthew 28:19-20). You
will see and hear me whenever there is a call for a cure and a cry for
ministrations of compassionate care without partiality, stigmatization,
discrimination, marginalization, limits to access, violence, harm, threat and
criminalization for all human beings living with HIV and/or AIDS and their
friends and families.
• I ask you to follow my example
of compassion for everyone.
I hang out with people whose lives are suspect (Matthew
9:10-13); dialogue with those whose behavior is outside social norms (John 4);
touch the “untouchables” (Luke 17:11-19); heal those wrongly scandalized (John
9); and show compassion to those whom others would stone to death (John
8:1-11). To me, people ARE KNOWN for
their intrinsic value as those whom I made and love. They ARE NOT IDENTIFIED by a virus! And if you ever feel crucified for who you
are, remember, I’ve been there!
• My brothers and sisters are,
and should be, here!
I tell them to love, to befriend, to give their lives
(literally “be martyrs”) for people most like them (“Jerusalem”), people a
little unlike them (“Judea”), people that some despise (“Samaria”), and people
they cannot imagine (“the ends of the earth,” see Acts 1:8). They are pioneers beyond geography and
landscapes, practitioners of Good News and fearlessly so in the moralscape.
FEARLESS LOVE KNOWS PEOPLE AND DESTROYS PHOBIAS! May I remind you that, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love
drives out fear... The one who fears is not made perfect
in love,” (1 John 4:18).
• I love every participant at
Remember, I love the “world” and choose that term
deliberately to embrace every human being (John 3:16-17)! I also invite followers to love me with their
whole being and in everything they do, which includes a command to love
everyone who lives and breathes with my very same compassion (Luke 10:27). In case I need to remind you, I alone know
every person’s heart (I Samuel 16:7).
And please don’t feel you need to be judgmental toward anyone for me
(Matthew 7:1-3). Just love as I love.
• I support every effort by
every discipline to address, defeat and eradicate HIV!
I have given you the timeless, transcultural story of the
Good Samaritan, reminding everyone that compassion, community and real
solutions extend to all in need (Luke 10:25-37), because we – together – have
the resources necessary to meet the need.
In that story, you will discover that your gifts as a first-responder,
social worker, scientist, medical practitioner, therapist, pharmacist,
caregiver, philanthropist, financier and person of faith are complementary and
conjoined to revive the dying and cause them to thrive. In fact, you will hear me say that your
rescue of a wounded co-traveler has implications for your life, here on earth
and for the eternal hereafter.
• I ask everyone who is involved with the HIV&AIDS pandemic to live
and act responsibly.
If you are a policy maker, legislator, program leader,
executive or officer, a healthcare provider, a biotech or pharmaceutical
company, a scientist or researcher, a community advocate, a therapist or an
educator, clergy or pastoral caregiver in a faith group, I call you to use
every resource and do everything in your power to discover a cure; to develop
new treatments, ministries and conduct educational programs necessary to
eradicate this virus and empower those infected whom I love; and to act with
transparency and integrity, applying and exercising the highest moral
imperative to guide you in your daily quest.
If you are HIV+, I do not condemn you nor do I stigmatize
you for having this virus. But please, for the sake of yourself and
others – both now and in the future, commit yourself to make every effort and
take every precaution to not pass this virus on.
Thank you all for, “Being responsible to and for others AS
YOU WOULD HAVE THEM BE RESPONSIBLE to and for you,” (Matthew
7:12). And when you do not know what to do, ask for wisdom and help
• I invite anyone who will to
join me as a friend in my work.
I know the challenges of living with hatred, stigma,
oppression, lies and the fear of others projected on you. That’s why I invite you away from work and
weariness and to rest, reflect, refresh and learn (Matthew 11:27-29). Then, I call you to serve, because 35.3
million people around my globe need you (Romans 12; Luke 10:25-37).
What Jesus would declare at AIDS 2014…?
The foregoing is not speculation, i.e. “What Would Jesus
Each point is a declaration of “What Jesus Did!” in his
time, and what I believe he calls us to do in ours!