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
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

20 For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope,  

WP-Bible plugin
), 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
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

21 Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.  

WP-Bible plugin
). 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
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

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.  

WP-Bible plugin
: “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
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

18 Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body.  

WP-Bible plugin
). “Thou shalt not commit adultery” (Exodus 20:14Exodus 20:14
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

14 Thou shalt not commit adultery.  

WP-Bible plugin
). 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
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

31 Look not thou upon the wine when it is red, when it giveth his colour in the cup, when it moveth itself aright.  

WP-Bible plugin
) “I will not be enslaved by anything” (1 Corinthians 6:121 Corinthians 6:12
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

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.  

WP-Bible plugin

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
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

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!  

WP-Bible plugin
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
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

Izbrano poglavje ne obstaja!

WP-Bible plugin
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:


This entry was posted in Articles, blog. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Guilt, Grace, and the Global AIDS Crisis

  1. C. David says:

    Inspiring, encouraging and comforting message to the lost, hopeless and guilty ones, proclaiming clearly the message of grace, mercy and love


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *