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Guilt, Grace, and the Global AIDS Crisis

By John Piper. All sin comes with a price. And many pay the bill who never did the sin. This means that we must speak carefully about the cause of AIDS. If any epidemic ever spread because of disobedience to God’s Word, it is AIDS. But millions are infected because of someone else’s disobedience, not their own. But be careful here. Even this way of saying it could lead to a simplistic, unbiblical response. The abused are not innocent. And the guilty are not hopeless. We are all sinners, which means no one does not deserve AIDS. When the Bible says that "the creation was subjected to futility" by God (Romans 8:20Romans 8:20
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20 For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope,  

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), it means that a sin-permeated creation will be a suffering-permeated creation. God ordains that there be suitable signs in the physical world of the moral horror of sin. All of us are sinful. And all of us cry under the fall of creation. All of us groan in this "bondage to decay" as we wait for "the freedom of the glory of the children of God" (Romans 8:21Romans 8:21
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21 Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.  

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). Therefore, if we have AIDS because of a blood transfusion or a promiscuous spouse or a drug-using mother, we are not innocent. But neither are the guilty hopeless. Mercifully, homosexual relations are made illicit by God. Few ancient texts are more stunning with modern relevance to AIDS than Romans 1:27Romans 1:27
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27 And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.  

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: "Men gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error." Mercifully, prostitution and every form of extramarital sex is forbidden by God. "Flee fornication" (1 Corinthians 6:181 Corinthians 6:18
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18 Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body.  

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). "Thou shalt not commit adultery" (Exodus 20:14Exodus 20:14
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14 Thou shalt not commit adultery.  

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). Mercifully, God warns us against drug abuse. "Do not look at wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup and goes down smoothly. In the end it bites like a serpent and stings like an adder. Your eyes will see strange things, and your heart utter perverse things" (Proverbs 23:31Proverbs 23:31
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31 Look not thou upon the wine when it is red, when it giveth his colour in the cup, when it moveth itself aright.  

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) "I will not be enslaved by anything" (1 Corinthians 6:121 Corinthians 6:12
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12 All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.  

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). But the mercy does not stop with divine prohibitions. God will hear the cry of the guilty who have brought misery upon themselves. Psalm 107:17-21Psalm 107:17-21
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17 Fools because of their transgression, and because of their iniquities, are afflicted. 18 Their soul abhorreth all manner of meat; and they draw near unto the gates of death. 19 Then they cry unto the LORD in their trouble, and he saveth them out of their distresses. 20 He sent his word, and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions. 21 Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!  

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is mercifully relevant to AIDS in this regard: Some were fools through their sinful ways, and because of their iniquities suffered affliction; they loathed any kind of food, and they drew near to the gates of death. Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. He sent out his word and healed them, and delivered them from their destruction. Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of men! Self-inflicted misery does not put a person beyond hope. That is the only kind of guilt God forgives. It’s the only kind of guilt there is. The fact that any of us is healthy after sinning is owing to Christ’s mercy. Therefore, the fact that some are sick after sinning should bring out Christian mercy. And there is need for extraordinary mercy. Christians should pray and work toward research into cures, medical and hospice care, orphan ministries, education, moral challenges for abstinence and recovery, and above all, the spread of  the gospel of Jesus Christ. According to the Center for Disease Control, "Today, 40 million people are estimated to be living with HIV/AIDS. Of these, 37.1 million are adults. 18.5 million are women, and 3 million are children under 15." The cumulative number of AIDS cases reported to the CDC in the USA is 816,149is 816,149
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Izbrano poglavje ne obstaja!

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through December, 2001. The Minneapolis StarTribune reported (12-4-02, A22) that the fastest growing HIV/AIDS epidemic is in Eastern Europe and Central Asia with up to 90% of the known infections in Russia coming from drug injections. Sub-Sahara Africa is the worst-affected region with 29.4 million people infected. It is breathtaking to read that in Botswana the HIV prevalence is 38.8% of adults and in Zimbabwe 33.7%. The magnificent message of Christ is that there’s hope – in this life for love, and in the life to come for new pain-free bodies in fellowship with Jesus. My prayer and challenge to the Christian church is: May the Lord raise up researchers, doctors, nurses, and tens of thousands of caring people to make the light of Christ shine through mercy. Freely we have received, O that we might freely give. By John Piper. © Desiring God. Website: desiringGod.org Source: Desiringgod.org

Let us be Doers than Debaters

HIV/AIDS care has become a pressing need in the world as it is affecting millions of lives. In some African countries almost every home is affected. India too has few millions of  HIV/AIDS  patients. Who else can show these individuals and their families the way of hope than the believers? However, the responsibility is put aside saying it’s social work, which we are not called to do.But any student of the Bible can see Gods heart going out to the poor, needy, sick and the afflicted irrespective of their backgrounds (Ps.72:12-13, Isa.25:4). God commanded the Israelites to show compassion to such among them. Pleading for the cause of the afflicted and needy is one of the evidence of knowing the Lord. (Jer.22: 16) Jesus was known as the friend of sinners and publicans. James describes faith without works as vain and hypocritical  and dead .James 2:14-17James 2:14-17
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14 What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, 16 And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? 17 Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. alone: Gr. by itself  

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. Apostle Paul says that we are saved unto good works. So the mandate is clear, we do have a responsibility to respond to the needs around us. So rather than responding to needs, many of us are engaged in debating the legitimacy of people and organizations engaged in such activities. We know that the failure of local churches have triggered new organizations to respond to the needs. Thus  “organizations have become necessary evil.” Yet, the members of ACCEPT believes that any such ministries should be an outreach of local assemblies and ACCEPT is such a ministry. So, let us not be just debaters of the issue but doers of Lord’s command. We can talk and debate much about organizations legitimacy, while millions around the world are dying and many are going to a lost eternity. Let us join hands and meet the pressing need of the time with the compassion of Christ. Raju K Mathew is Founder Chairman of ACCEPT

Risking life for Christ’s sake

Church history records so many men and women who risked their life to bring this message of hope to others. In Romans 16, apostle Paul mentions of his co-workers, Priscilla and Aquilla, couple who risked their necks for Paul and the gospel. Others of whom he tells us that they "labored much". Some were in jail with him. About young Timothy he writes in Phil.2: 20 "..no one like minded who will sincerely care for your sake". In verse 27 he writes of Epaphrodites who was sick almost unto death in ministering to Paul. Later Paul writes "..for the work of Christ he came close to death, not regarding his life"(v.30). Paul himself tells of his life in Acts 21:13Acts 21:13
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13 Then Paul answered, What mean ye to weep and to break mine heart? for I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.  

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"for I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus". We read of missionaries who left the comfortable lives of the west, who came and worked among the sick and dying. Even leprosy and small pox patients were cared for and in the process few got the same disease and died. The risk they took, spread the message of the gospel more powerfully than a modern day televangelist who in his comfortable studio or posh pulpit speaking of Jesus’ love and a distorted message of health,wealth and prosperity. Caring for HIV/AIDS infected and affected people in Christ’s love and compassion, the staff at ACCEPT is taking a measure of risk. In giving them medical care, as in all medical fields, there is some risk involved. A medical doctor or nurse who works with patients all the time has to take some risk. In caring for many of the HIV patients with TB, there is some risk involved. This is the least we can do to bring the most needed message to them. They are people who are looking forward to death with out a cure, mostly young people in the prime of their life. Will you pray for the staff and their protection and that Lords love will channel through them to the desperate ones. At  the same time, where are we today? Aren’t we more concerned about our own comforts? What risk are you taking for the gospel and for others? Let us take risks for eternity. Raju K Mathew is the founder chairman of ACCEPT

Action Points for the Church

Here are some action points for your church to involve in HIV/AIDS ministry.
  • Mobilise prayer; it is effective.
  • Provide a climate of love, acceptance, and support for those who are vulnerable to, or affected by HIV/AIDS.
  • Reverse the discrimination and build supportive environments by organising Bible studies, Cell groups and support groups for those infected and affected by HIV/AIDS.
  • Holistic Care – mental, emotional, physical and spiritual care and support of people living with HIV/AIDS. Encourage your congregation to become involved in their lives through visitations, prayer, sharing resources, etc.
  • Acknowledge the calling of those individuals who are responding to this disaster as true vocations under God and be willing to see is truly at work in their lives.
  • Encourage faithfulness and refraining from risky behavior as key point to avoid HIV/AIDS. Promote family values and abstinence from sex until marriage.
  • Encourage the church to seek and understand more fully the gift of human sexuality in the context of personal responsibility, family, and Christian faith. At home and church teach the vital topic on Biblical sexuality.
  • Ignorance is not bliss, it costs lives. Promoting and sharing of accurate information about HIV/AIDS and a climate of open discussion does work against the spread of misinformation and fear.
  • Encourage people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHAs) to become  actively involved in church activities.

AIDS: Christian Action and Compassion

How should Christians respond to AIDS? I will never forget the first person I met with AIDS: a young student desperately ill in a side-room. He was anxious, sweaty panting for breath, and gripped with fear. He was alone and about to die. From that moment on I found I was involved. Here was a human being made in God’s image, in great need. How could I respond other than to care and help, laying aside any personal feelings I might have had about lifestyles, and the means by which he had become infected? So often as Christians reacting to AIDS we do nothing or find ourselves rushing to open our bibles, to declare to ourselves and to others that something is wrong. Yet in our sudden  response we can loose sight of God’s mercy, love and forgiveness - and the reality that many have been infected through the actions of others rather than through their own behaviour. It is possible as to be technically correct in interpreting God’s standards for human behaviour yet terribly wrong and un Christian in our own attitudes. Christian response to AIDS must be guided by example of Jesus Take the example of Jesus with the woman caught in the act of adultery - really the story of the missing man (1). Here are a bunch of angry men, looking for an excuse to lynch a woman, yet it takes two to and the man is nowhere to be seen. In Jesus’ day there was a hierarchy of sin: woman sex sin punished by death, other sin was more or less acceptable, while man sex sin was hardly worth fussing about.Jesus loathed their double standards and self-opinionated hypocrisy. He cut right through them with just one sentence: “If any one of you is without sin let him be the first to throw a stone at her” (2). No one moved. Jesus stared them all out until they all left one by one - the oldest first. In one sentence Jesus had totally destroyed any possibility of judging others according to a ranking of sin. All of us have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory (3), all are utterly dead outside of God’s grace (4). When it comes to pointing the finger, Jesus forbids the Christian community to put ourselves on a pedestal when it comes to HIV / AIDS. He was the only person on this earth who had the right to condemn yet he says to the woman “neither do I condemn you”. He also adds “go now and leave your life of sin” (5) .As Christians we get confused between the two things Jesus said: either we rush to make a moral statement, tripping up over judgmental attitudes along the way, or we rush to express God’s mercy and love, falling into a deep hole where there is no longer a clear moral framework for living. The Jesus way is to hold infinite love and perfect standards in tension together - something we need his help to do. This is the Christian way.Let us be absolutely clear that the teaching of scripture from Genesis to Revelation is constant regarding the wonderful gift of sex union, as a celebration of love and friendship between a man and woman committed together for life. The Bible is far more daring and explicit than our sermons on sex, making clear that all sex union outside marriage is wrong.So how do we live with these tensions ? The way of Jesus is clear: a Christian response to AIDS means we are called to express the unconditional love of God to all in need regardless of how they come to be so. This is fundamental to the call of the church to serve the world.If someone is seriously hurt in a car crash just outside my house I rush out to help. I don’t walk away just because I find out he’s drunk and that is why there was an accident. Nor do I start preaching an anti-drunkenness sermon in the ambulance or on the ward. I do however talk about the story widely wherever I go, pointing out the dangers of drinking and driving.With those affected by HIV/AIDS we are called to be helpful, to care and express love. The church has to act, seeking always to serve others.We are there as servants to help as the person wishes and it is a privilege to do so. Many are shocked to find Christians involved who care deeply while unable to endorse certain lifestyles. I often think about the story Jesus told of the prodigal son (7). What would have happened if he had become infected with HIV while away and had died before having had time to think again? I imagine his dad reading the newspaper over breakfast one day and seeing the death notice of his own son. I imagine him breaking down in tears as he calls his wife: “He never phoned, he never wrote, and in ten years we had no news except through friends”. I often think of people with AIDS today, many dying without hope and without God, and I think of our heavenly father, with tears pouring down his face, not wanting any to perish (8), or to be separated one day more, yet with sadness releasing people to go their own way. Those with AIDS are the lepers of today. When Jesus touched the leper he made history - still talked about 2000 years later. It was the most powerful demonstration of the love of God that he could possibly have shown other than his own sacrificial death. When a volunteer from a local church goes into a home that person carries the presence of Christ. Jesus has no body of his own: we the church are his body. We are his hands, his feet, his smile, his voice, his heart, his touch. The only part of God that people see could be the life of Jesus in you or me. How to help: People with AIDS can be very sensitive to reactions: will this new person accept or reject? As with cancer a person can swing rapidly from anger, to denial, sadness, despair, hope, optimism, questioning, resignation, fighting, giving up, wanting active treatment, or even wanting to die. Be sensitive to where the person is today, helping the person understand that in the midst of great uncertainties about the future, your own constant support and friendship is not in doubt, just as God’s faithfulness and love is not in doubt. There may be deep wounds from the past, and feelings of worthlessness. Guilt over unintentional passing of infection on to others, guilt over surviving when so many others have already died, and guilt about lifestyles may all be present. Feelings of isolation and loneliness may be intense. Fear of the process of dying is often far greater than the fear of death itself. The greatest need is often for simple practical help rather than just for comforting words or a listening ear. Wiping someone’s bottom can say more about your care for the person than six hours of sitting in an armchair. Many want to counsel someone with AIDS - but who is really prepared to go the extra mile? (1) John 8v1-11 (2) John 8v7 (3) Rom 3v23 (4) Eph 2v1 (5) John 8v11 (6) Gen 2v24, Matt 19v5, 1 Cor 6v16 (7) Luke 15v11-31 (8) 2 Pet 3v9 Dr. Patrick Dixon is the author of The Truth about AIDS and also founder of ACET (AIDS Care Education and Training) Courtesy: Article on a Christian response to AIDS published in Tear Times 1997