HIV/AIDS and the Kingdom of God
What is our responsibility as Christians regarding the HIV/AIDS crisis?
This is one of the huge questions that God is using to wake up the North American church. In the face of such an overwhelming epidemic, many are asking what we, as believers in Jesus Christ, can say or do. Although the answer to that question is important, I’d like to propose that ultimately it isn’t about HIV/AIDS, the pandemic, or what we say or do. It’s really all about God, God’s Kingdom, and how, in his providence, God is redeeming the evil of HIV/AIDS to build his Kingdom.
How could I propose this?
First, God is using this disease to bring people into a personal relationship with himself. While working in Uganda, we often heard people thanking God for their illness with HIV/AIDS. Without it, they said, “I would never have come to know Jesus.” God redeemed the illness by bringing those infected and affected by the disease into contact with others who could share the Good News of Jesus with them.
Second, it has brought people back into community. The problem is too big for one person, one family, one community, or even one nation to address. We are beginning to realize that we are all impacted by this disease and that we all have a role to play in addressing it. The Kingdom of God transcends geography, church affiliation, race, and gender. God is building his Kingdom, and incredibly, God has chosen to use his people to accomplish this. But we need to work together as a body, each gifted for a purpose, with Jesus as the head and the Holy Spirit to guide us.
Third, Kingdom citizenship has responsibilities that are concomitant with its rights and privileges. HIV/AIDS has made us aware of the injustices and inequalities that exist both within and outside of the church. The fact that countries hardest hit by the epidemic do not have health-care delivery systems that can cope with distributing antiretroviral drugs, even if they were affordable and available, highlights some of the inequalities. HIV/AIDS exposes the economic, social, and political power structures that contribute to the inequalities and injustices associated with HIV/AIDS. Topics of concern include the impact this disease will have on the world economy, how the devaluation and exploitation of women is critical to its transmission, and how abuse of power (it thrives in areas torn apart by war and insecurity) and abuse of freedom (sexual promiscuity) worsen the disease.
Within the church, those who have been blessed with resources are just beginning to realize that their brothers and sisters in Sub-Saharan Africa have succumbed in great numbers to HIV/AIDS in the past twenty years. They are awakening to God’s call regarding their part in the work that redeems HIV/AIDS for God’s Kingdom-building activity. The church’s response can speak to these injustices and inequalities in a loving and compassionate way. In so doing, the church will incarnate Christ and his Kingdom to those who are watching — and serve to advance his Kingdom.
Grace Tazelaar, RN, MS, is Missions Director of Nurses Christian Fellowship. She can be reached at GJTaz [at] comcast [dot] net.