Those Who Are Left Out | Pastor Bill Mugford
Next to feeling unloved, being left out is perhaps the most miserable existence a human being can know. Unintentionally being overlooked or deliberately shunned contributes to a profound loneliness that people living with HIV&AIDS all-too-frequently experience.
We are all made for love and community. Jesus declares that love is the most persuasive evidence of Christ-like faith, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another,” John 13:35 (ESV). He also commands us to build a great community by fulfilling the Great Commission, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you,” Matthew 28:19, 20a. That calls the Church to be the most inclusive community ever, a community that exists to grow because members of the family consciously and constantly work so that others are included.
Tragically, the Church’s response to HIV&AIDS has contributed to the formation of a community whose calling might better be described as “The Great Omission.” Not many people living with HIV&AIDS feel welcome in most churches or around us as Christian believers. And if there are people living with HIV&AIDS in our faith communities, they often feel much safer not revealing their status. The next sentence deserves its own paragraph for emphasis.
You and I have no greater calling than to love people into Christian community, “Getting to Zero!” the number of people who are left out, especially those living with HIV&AIDS and their families and friends.
“Make disciples” is actually a command to “make friends!” Friends is precisely what Jesus called His own disciples: “I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you,” John 15:15b. Friendship with Jesus is, was and forever will be, friendship with a purpose. “Make disciples” means you and I are building a Kingdom community of the dearest friends, which includes any and every person living with HIV&AIDS and their families and friends.
People living with HIV&AIDS and their families and friends need us to be interested in, spend time with, care about, love on, pray for, learn together with, and include them as family in the church. Jesus does it for us! We can do no less for others!