May 11, 1996
As an HIV-negative Christian, I am dismayed by the hateful and judgemental attitudes still embraced by some Christians. Even though I believe things have improved with greater education and awareness of the disease, I still find myself met with people who spout ignorant and even cruel things. Often, these will be otherwise reasonable, decent people - people who think of themselves as incapable of cruelty or bigotry; in short, people who know better. How can I help them understand that such attitudes are themselves un-Christian, that misfortune is not visited upon us as a punishment for our sins, but just happens?
Response from Rev. Pieters
The title of your question refers to one of the oldest discussions of this question, the book of Job. The friends who gathered to comfort Job in his suffering assumed he must have done something wrong, because only then would he be visited with such horrible misfortunes. But Job knew himself to be a good person, and kept asking God, "Why?" God finally answers (in brief): "Where were you when I created the earth?" (Job 38:4) Jesus addresses this question in John 9:1-3, where his disciples ask him whether a man was born blind due to his own sin or that of his parents. Jesus said that the blindness was not due to anyone's sin. Rather, it was an opportunity for God's grace to be witnessed in the world. Jesus, of course, reached out and restored the man's sight. And that's a strong point you can make to your friends: Jesus never punished people with illness. He healed the sick. (Matthew 8:16; 12:15; 14:14; 15:30; and 21:14.) Jesus revealed God's healing nature. He never made judgments about the nature of the illness, or restricted his healing to those who were deemed righteous. You could tell your colleagues that Jesus appealed to his followers to show compassion, and to look after those who are sick. (Matthew 25:36) You might remind them of Jesus' admonishment that only those without sin should cast a stone (John 8:7), since your friends seem to be making a judgment about persons living with HIV/AIDS. You can point out that Jesus teaches when a person judges another, that person is inviting that same kind of judgment. (Matthew 7:1) If being Christian means following the way of Christ, then the appropriate response to illness or any physical challenge is compassion, healing, and love, not judgment and punishment. (I Corinthians 13:1) For a more detailed discussion of this topic, read "HIV/AIDS: Is It God's Judgment?" here at The Body. The article states, "When Christians reach out and touch those with HIV or AIDS, they can transform suffering into a living example of God's love." A primary task as Christians is to be living vehicles of God's love for those who are suffering, and persons living with HIV/AIDS are subject to a great deal of suffering. It doesn't matter how a person was infected with HIV. Each person is a beloved creation of God, and is worthy of compassion. If God judges anything, it is how we respond to those who are suffering, or to our own suffering. Do we make it an opportunity for judgment, or do we make it an opportunity for God's grace? Jesus took such opportunities to show God's grace.
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