Care of the Person with HIV/AIDS: The Biblical Mandate -- By: Elizabeth Ann Schenk
ATJ 25 (1993) p. 68
Care of the Person with HIV/AIDS:
The Biblical Mandate
Betsy Schenk is an MDiv student at ATS. This is her prize-winning essay for the Jeffrey Branche Scholarship.
Today’s church is faced with a modern day leprosy. It is called AIDS, or Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. Once felt to be a problem only for inner city churches, reality now is that almost every church in the nation is being challenged to define their position about persons infected with HIV/AIDS. Peggy Skill, in the January/February issue of Alive Now says it in this way: “The Body of Christ has AIDS.” Another article published in The Christian Century is entitled “We Are the Church Alive, the Church with AIDS” (Cherry and Mitulski 1988, 8).
The magnitude of the problem is large and growing. Some recent statistics are alarming, but help show the imperative of this topic. In 1992, it was estimated that there were two million people who suffered from AIDS. Projections include the fact that by the year 2000, 25 million people will have Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (Alive Now 1993, 7). To bring the problem more to our own country, it is currently estimated that one in every 250 people in the United States is HIV positive. More than 140,000 people in the United States have died of AIDS since 1981. The devastation that occurs affects not just the persons with AIDS, but extends to their families. Experts have projected that by the year 2000, approximately 10 million children will be orphaned as a result of AIDS (Alive Now 1993, 7).
Perhaps the first task required of churches today concerning this scourge is the need to assist individual Christians to develop their individual response to AIDS, based on sound Biblical principles and not on hysteria, misconceptions, or lack of knowledge. The nature of these Biblical mandates needs to be defined. It is the intent of this paper to do just that.
The first, and most important Biblical mandate for Christians is to love and accept the person with AIDS. This requires a theological perspective that is based in the model presented by Jesus Christ throughout the New Testament. He offered himself to all kinds of undesirable persons. It is what he also asks of us. Jesus was not afraid to touch lepers or to talk with Samaritans. This is exemplified by the
ATJ 25 (1993) p. 69
story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well, found in John 4. This story is a model for the kind of nonjudgmental and compassionate acceptance called for in ministry to persons with AIDS.
With this sense of love and acceptance it is important to have an attitude of nonj...
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