"Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons. Freely you have received, freely give." Mt 10:8
My first real introduction to AIDS was the movie The Cure when I was about 10 years old. It is about an 11 year old boy, Dexter, who contracted AIDS from a blood transfusion and his friend and de facto protector, Erik. The two boys are traveling to New Orleans to find a doctor who, supposedly has discovered a cure for AIDS.
I don't remember much about the film to be honest, but there is one scene that I do. Along the way, the two boys are held at knife point by some older boys. Dexter, a skinny little boy who lives up to his name, then grabs a knife from Erik and confronts the older boys.
Erik: What in the hell are you doing? Are you crazy?
Dexter: I'm gonna die anyways, it doesn't matter if he hurts me!
Pony: You two, what are you talking about? What's he talking about?
Erik: He has AIDS!
Dexter: You'd be crazy to stab me. My blood is like poison. One drop could kill you.
(Dexter cuts himself with the knife and starts to threaten the boys with his bleeding hand & they run away)
Dexter: My blood is like poison! Like the venom of a cobra!
Erik: Dex! You're like a damn superhero or something! That was rad.
(Dexter looks at his blood and sinks to the ground)
Erik: What's the matter?Now I didn't really know much about AIDS when I watched The Cure. At that point I didn't even realize it was a "gay" thing (I owe a huge debt to my parents for that). I don't remember scenes where crowds of boys hurled insults at 11 year old Dexter, calling him a faggot or a homo. I don't remember Erik's mother forbidding him to play with the little AIDS boy.
Dexter: My blood is poison...
All I remember is a boy my own age staring at his bleeding hand and seeing poison drip out.
When Jesus commissioned his disciples at the time of his ascension, He was committing His work into their hands. That is the point of the Church, the body of Christ. We continue in Him, by the power of the Holy Spirit doing His work: healing the sick, freeing the captives, sharing God's good news of love and freedom, freely giving that which we have freely received from God.
But with AIDS, we pause.
To most of us, not just Christians, AIDS is not simply another disease, because AIDS carries with it confusing moral questions. See, whenever issues brush up against sexual immorality or homosexuality, our morality alarms start going off and, in all the confusion, people can get hurt. It doesn't matter that there are millions like Dexter who couldn't prevent their sickness, it doesn't matter that there are people who simply didn't know how to prevent their sickness. We're like confused emergency response personnel who can't tell the victims from the perpetrators.
But, let's say we could, let's say we could tell the "innocent" AIDS victims from the "irresponsible" or "immoral," ones, does that even matter?
As far as our response is concerned, no. I don't think it matters why a man is sick, poor or in prison. Because Jesus didn't come to heal the accidentally sick, the unfortunately poor, or the unfairly imprisoned. It was simply His job to heal, relieve and free men; to bring light into dark places regardless of the circumstances.
As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" Jesus answered, "It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him. We must work the works of Him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world." John 9:2-5I don't mean to oversimplify complex issues or to even accept all things, because there are some things that are too harmful to ignore. But Jesus came to "proclaim good news to the poor, proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed," (Luke 4:18). This includes the "irresponsible" or "immoral" ones, we don't get to make that distinction.
To celebrate World Aids Day, let us consider what it means to be a follower of Christ, the Savior of sinful people, that Man of reckless grace. Is it possible for the messengers of the Good News to bring healing, acceptance and love to the victims of an "immoral" disease?
Let's work the works of the One who sent us.