Seeking Grace in AIDS

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Bluntly Reminded

This afternoon, my sister bluntly reminded me of a personal stance I previously took on AIDS: that I was once very much against finding a cure for HIV/AIDS and that I was very much opposed to donating money to organizations that were searching for a cure / supporting the AIDS effort to reduce the suffering of those infected.Jacqueline bluntly shared with me that a church sister and friend apparently took that offensively (and still remembers what I said), especially as the church friend is a student of medicine. I cannot take back that position I took and the words that I had professed. I sincerely regret hurting her feelings, for being so stubborn, judgmental and unloving to HIV/AIDS sufferers, and would apologize if given the chance. I am glad, however, that she did take my previous position to heart and stood for what she believed in — we need more passionate Christians who stand up and contend for what they believe in, especially in causes related to the gospel.Looking back, I see that those words spoken by myself were not appropriate for the Sunday School setting (I do not remember the context specifically), regardless of whether or not I was asked / provoked during class discussions about where I stood on the AIDS pandemic. I was very arrogant and prideful of my orthodoxy and conservative positions on social issues, and I sadly regret that I was not humble. I have tried hard over the past couple years to be disciplined by His grace and I hope this would be a testament to the Spirit at work within me, that I am working towards being more humbly loving and graciously truthful in my theology.

Most Destructive Epidemic

Whenever I think to this AIDS issue, I cannot help but consider the cultural contexts to where the disease is present. According to Wikipedia, there are an estimated 38.6 million people now living with the disease worldwide. As of January 2006, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and the World Health Organization (WHO) estimate that AIDS has killed more than 25 million people since it was first recognized on June 5, 1981, making it one of the most destructive epidemics in recorded history. Of the estimated 2.3 million [1.7???3.5 million] children currently living with HIV, 2 million (almost 90%) live in sub-Saharan Africa. NINETY PERCENT of the disease is found in Africa.That leaves approximately 10% in modern Western countries.TEN PERCENT. Or approximately 3.8 million.Considering that the majority of HIV infections are acquired through unprotected sexual relations between partners, it is clearly evident that those in Western countries who contract the disease do so as a consequence of sin — from needle-sharing injection drug use, from unprotected sexual intercourse outside of marriage. For children who receive the disease from their mother (/parents), they receive the due consequence of their parents mistakes.

Questions At Hand

I make no judgments here; those are the unfortunate facts. While this is not at the forefront of my mind everyday, I nevertheless struggle in my heart with this AIDS pandemic. To me, it is clearly a Gospel issue — and an issue of total depravity and radical corruption, and issue of justification and subsequently sanctification. It is the state that we all find ourselves in, before we become Christians and even still after: sinners in need of the saving grace of God through His Son’s substitutionary death in our place. However, are there different levels of sin in God’s eyes? Is one sin worse than another? Are we any better than those infected? (Surely, a quick survey of Leviticus 19-20 reminds us that there are clearly sins under the LORD’s Levitical Law that God has ordained to be punishable by death and others that result in a lesser punishment than the death penalty.) Romans 3:22-25 reminds us that there is absolutely no distinction between “them” and “us” — for we all have sinned, fall short of God’s glory, and are in need of saving grace.Where, then, is God’s mercy and grace in this disease? Where is God’s punishment and wrath in this pandemic? And is it possible for us to thwart God’s hand of judgment by our human efforts of removing the sin’s Divine judgment and punishment (via finding a cure)? Are we rebelling against God’s will and His ordained cause-and-effect judgment and punishment by seeking to find a cure for this sinful virus?Over the past century in medicine, we have found many cures to many diseases. In terms of doing all that we can with our God-given abilities to ease unnecessary pain, I do believe seeking a cure for HIV/AIDS is a worth while cause and effort — even if I am still hesitant to donate much money to the cause. I myself have donated to the (RED) campaign and IVCF’s campaign to fight HIV; out of my own initiative have I supported the global effort to end AIDS. My position on this pandemic has been changed and is still reforming to give all peoples a chance to hear the Gospel and experience the love of Christ — regardless of their sins or HIV status.

Biblical Discernment

God has given us the intellect and human ability to exercise our brains to its fullest capacities to alleviate some of the worst diseases known to mankind. And yet, after all these years, we have not found a cure for HIV — a vaccine for AIDS has not be discovered. Does anybody else hear what I hear?!? Do you feel the implications of what this means — the reason why God has not allowed us to find a cure? Does it not sound like God is speaking a loud message to us? This is the largest pandemic known to mankind, and yet a miracle has not happened. God has not yet done a miracle to cure this disease!And I beg you to ask yourself and God this simple question — why not?Within God’s sovereign will of decree, we understand that He has not done a miracle because He has not chosen to. Why or why not — we certainly cannot know, for such is in the secret heart of God. In as much that we can discern His will of decree, we certainly know that if He wanted us not to suffer from this disease then He would have done a miracle. In His will of command, our Lord always desires us not to sin, He doesn’t want us to have to face the punishment for our sin — for God desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:4).When one part of the body suffers, the rest of the body also suffers. And so I also suffer and shed tears of sadness and sorrow as I think of those suffering from HIV/AIDS in the world right now, as well as all those who have died from the virus. Let us be reverently humbled by God’s holiness and sovereignty — even to the point of being prostrate on our faces. May we discern how best to show the world that even where sin abounds increasingly by the millions, God’s grace in Christ’s blood abounds all the more.

Bear One Another’s Burdens

6:1 Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. 2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. 3 For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. 4 But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. 5 For each will have to bear his own load.6 One who is taught the word must share all good things with the one who teaches. 7 Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. 8 For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. 9 And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. 10 So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.(Galatians 6:1-10)

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