Volume 24, Number 5
AIDS is a fatal disease caused by a virus (known as HIV) which affects certain cells of the body, and leads to a breakdown of the mechanism that guards the body against other diseases such as pneumonia, malignant growths, parasitic illnesses, and other disorders. AIDS itself doesn’t kill, but it allows other infections and diseases to invade the body, and these diseases then bring on death.
The vast majority of AIDS cases occur among sexually active homosexual men, bisexual men who have had homosexual relations, and intravenous drug users. The AIDS virus is spread by sexual contact, needle sharing, perinatal transmission, and less commonly through transfused blood. The risk of infection with the virus is greatly increased by having multiple sexual partners (either homosexual or heterosexual), and by sharing needles among those who use illicit drugs. There is no evidence that AIDS can be contracted from casual contact with an AIDS patient (shaking hands, sharing utensils, using the same toilet, etc.). Most children with AIDS acquire the virus from their infected mothers before or during birth, either through the mother’s blood system or in the birth canal.
There is an unquestionable linkage between AIDS and the deplorable sin of homosexuality. AIDS is basically a sexually transmitted disease. David Noebel (in a special report issued by the Summit Research Institute, Colorado Springs, CO), says that “either directly or indirectly, homosexuality accounts for over 90% of the AIDS problem. Sexual contact– predominately homosexual–accounts for three-fourths of the reported AIDS cases.” However, heterosexual people, who are involved with multiple sexual partners, are also among those who are infected by the virus and are capable of carrying it to others.
Couples who are not now infected with the AIDS virus, those who do not use IV drugs, and those who maintain long-term and mutually faithful one-partner sexual relationships–are protected from AIDS. In other words, God’s laws, as set forth in the Bible, are designed not to be a burden, but a blessing and protection for the human family. It pays to constantly seek to live according to the standards set forth in the Word of God. Morality, chastity, virginity, and decency must become the standards by which we live. The Word of God is absolutely clear: “For this is the will of God…that you should abstain from sexual immorality” (1 Thessalonians 4:3/NKJV). God requires sexual abstinence outside of marriage, and fidelity within an honorable heterosexual marriage.
Many of us are convinced that sexual liberation has cost the human family dearly. Not only do millions face the prospect of death because of AIDS,, but our U.S. society continues to suffer with a 60% divorce rate; 1,500,000 abortions each year; more than 25,000,000 cases of incurable genital herpes cases; and pedophilia, incest, and teenage prostitution which have reached epidemic levels. It is high time that Christians speak out boldly for Bible standards, and label homosexuality, adultery, and fornication as sins which draw the wrath of God (Colossians 3:5-6).
The God who created the human body knows what is best for us, and He says that the sexual experience is to be practiced in a monogamous married heterosexual relationship (Hebrews 13:4). When we use merchandise in a way that it was never intended to be used, it breaks. I could throw my typewriter at a stray cat if I wished, but the manufacturer would hardly stand by the guarantee. Just so, if we use our bodies in a way God never intended (for example, anal sex), there are natural consequences. AIDS is not so much a curse from heaven as it is the natural result of misusing the body (Romans 1:27).
AIDS sufferers are the lepers of the 20th century. They have massive needs and are lonely persons. They are dying and very few want anything to do with them. One victim of AIDS said, “The worst part of it all, is not that I am going to die, but that I am going to die alone.” It is our Christian duty to respond to Jesus’ call to minister to those rejected by society. Tony Campolo says, “The AIDS epidemic provides a chance for Christians to say to those suffering of the disease, ‘When everyone forsakes you, the Christian does not…because we want you to know that the Lord has not rejected you.’ ” Ministering to AIDS patients may mean extending to them a hug, going to their homes to visit, feeding them when they are too weak to eat, and helping them to get their clothes on. Not many people are standing in line to do those kinds of things! Yet any unwillingness to get involved, would identify us more with the Priest and Levite, than with the Good Samaritan.
Dealing with AIDS patients is becoming an enormous mission field–a field which will likely keep on growing. AIDS patients are lonely and desperate for hope and care during their last days on earth. These people are open to the Gospel. They seldom refuse to allow one to pray for them. They need to know that Jesus saves all who repent, that their sins can be forgiven, and that there is assurance beyond the grave. We must call for repentance and proclaim the glorious news of pardon through faith in Jesus Christ. Those who come to know Jesus will be prepared for a place that is free from disease, remorse, and rejection.
While Christians should be compassionate and minister to AIDS victims, at the same time we must teach the truth. We must clearly proclaim the message that sex outside of honorable marriage is wrong and can lead to death. That is God’s Word. It is not bigotry.
*According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 25 to 30 million people worldwide are expected to be infected with AIDS by the year 2000 (U.S. News and World Report, 6-19-1989).
AIDS: A Plague Among Us
By Paul W. Brubaker
Throughout the history of the human family, there have been a number of plagues and epidemics. Probably the most widely known scourge was the Black Death Plague (or Bubonic Plague, as it has sometimes been called). During the years of 1347 and 1351, the Black Plague spread across Europe like wildfire and caused an enormous loss of life. It has been calculated that one-third of the population of Europe, or about 25,000,000 people, died in that terrible plague.
The Great Plague of London in 1664-1665 resulted in more than 70,000 deaths. The population of London at that time was 460,000, which means that more than 15% of the inhabitants of that great city perished.
An epidemic in Canton and Hong Kong in the year 1894 left nearly 100,000 people dead. And within 20 years, the disease spread from China throughout the whole world, resulting in more than 10,000,000 deaths.
Older folks will remember the influenza epidemic of 1918-1919 here in the United States of America, in which an estimated 500,000 people died. More recently, many of us remember the polio epidemic of the 19509 in which approximately 20,000 people lost their lives to the dreaded disease.
But today’s plague is different. It is an epidemic that is affecting the lives of men, women, and children on all continents. It is devastating certain populations, and it is affecting the lives of many people not directly contracting the disease. This worldwide epidemic is called Acquired immune Deficiency Syndrome (or AIDS, as we know it). What makes this plague different is that it spreads only through the most intimate forms of human contact–through sexual intercourse, through childbearing, and through the sharing of contaminated blood and needles.
Many may be saying, “But AIDS will never affect me.” But it will! One article was entitled “You ain’t seen nothing yet.” That is not very good English grammar, but it makes an emphatic point. It is very possible that many of us will be affected in some way during the next number of years. We may not contract AIDS, but it is very possible that we will know someone who becomes a victim. And we need to be prepared, because there has been a lot of fear and misunderstanding about this disease. For example, what is going to be your response if someone with whom you work comes down with AIDS? How will you react if a close family member contracts the disease) Will you recoil with fear if someone at your child’s school is stricken) What is going to be your posture if a member of your local congregation falls prey to AIDS? Each of us should begin thinking about these matters, so that if and when the time does come, we will have thought it through carefully.
Researchers are working feverishly to come up with a cure for AIDS, but to date there has been no quick-fix. It is thought that no successful cure will be on the market until the mid-1990s, and in the meantime millions of people around the world will have lost their lives to the dreaded AIDS disease.
Notice now just a bit of further information about AIDS. The first cases of the disease arose among some African prostitutes in the late 1974, at about the same time it first appeared among Americans and Haitians. In Africa, even though it started among prostitutes, it has now spread to the general population, and has gained foothold in more than 30 African countries.
Here in the United States of America, at least at this point, AIDS has been concentrated primarily among high-risk groups–homosexuals, bisexuals, and intravenous drug users. However, the proportion of those having AIDS among heterosexuals (that is among those who desire relations with the opposite sex) is increasing at an alarming rate. Once concentrated in the gay community of San Francisco, the disease has now spread across the country among heterosexuals as well.
Researchers are saying that today’s adolescents and young people are increasing their risk of contracting AIDS tremendously. This of course is a reflection of the casual attitudes about sexual relationships which many people are holding, and a denial that the disease could ever happen to them.
In Africa, well over five million people are carriers of the AIDS virus. Here in the United
States, more than 100,000 persons (since 1981) have already been diagnosed as having AIDS, and it is estimated that anywhere from 500,000 to 3,000,000 Americans are infected with the virus (Newsweek, July 3, 1989). One of the problems with AIDS is that the disease may not show its effects until a number of years “down the road.” In fact, researchers have come to realize that the chances of developing AIDS are greater in the second five years after infection, than in the first five years! And that of course is scary–knowing that all of us may be living and working and associating with people who have the disease. Young persons may be dating someone with AIDS and can easily be totally unaware of it. That is why it is important for us to begin thinking about this matter now.
What occurs when a person contracts AIDS? AIDS is a fatal disease caused by a virus. The virus infects certain cells of the body and leads to a breakdown of the mechanism that guards against a group of diseases known as “opportunistic infections.” These include pneumonia, yeast infections, malignant growths, herpes, and other disorders. They use the opportunity of lowered resistance to infect and to destroy. Evidence also shows that the AIDS virus may attack the nervous system and cause damage to the brain.
People who have contracted AIDS experience a breakdown in the natural immunity against disease. They become vulnerable to illnesses or infections that are not otherwise a threat to a normal immune system. Thus, a cold or the flu (which is an inconvenience to a healthy parson), can become a life-threatening circumstance to a person with AIDS. And the AIDS virus is particularly devastating because it continually changes its structure, thus making treatment ineffective.
The symptoms that surface when one has AIDS often include weight loss, fevers, chills, persistent coughing, and shortness of breath. When the AIDS virus enters the blood stream, it begins to attack certain white blood cells, and the protective immune system is destroyed, so that other germs (bacteria, fungi, other viruses) can easily invade the body and eventually bring death. After a period of tremendous suffering and agony, the person who has AIDS finally dies a horrible death.
Let us turn a corner now, and look at some of the moral and biblical issues involved in this matter. As they look at the whole scenario, many Will say that AIDS is God’s judgment upon a generation which has departed from the biblical standards of morality. Very early in Genesis (Genesis 2:24), you will recall that God says, “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave to his wife.” Note that he is not to cleave to his boyfriend, not to his mistress, not to his roomie, not to his girlfriend, not to the person he is living with–but to his wife.
The latter part of Genesis 2:24 says, “And they shall be one flesh.” The phrase “one flesh” is indicative of the sexual relations between husband and wife. And any departure from that standard becomes sin! That is true regardless of whether the immorality is fornication, or adultery, or incest, or homosexuality, or bisexuality, or lesbianism, or bestiality. Any departure from the husband-wife standard which God has established –becomes sin!
Consider also God’s Word to us in Colossians 3:5-6. “Mortify therefore your members which are upon earth.” That simply means, “Put to death your carnal, earthly desires.” And then the Apostle Paul lists a whole catalog of offenses which are to be put to death. These are fornication (illicit sex relations among the unmarried); uncleanness (covering all sorts of sexual defilement–things such as reading pornographic literature, dwelling on obscene pictures, telling smutty, suggestive stories, etc.); inordinate affection (which is another way of describing strong sensual appetites); evil concupiscence (describing unbridled lust); and covetousness (which Paul says Is idolatry) .
The instruction here is to mortify (or put to death) these things in our lives. Pay particular attention to verse 6 of Colossians 3: “For which things’ sake the wrath of God comes on the children of disobedience.” One of the translations says, “Because of these things that have just been mentioned, the wrath of God is ever coming on the children of disobedience.” Does not this verse indicate to us that when we transgress the law of God, we not only pay for it on Judgment Day, but we also get a foretaste of that judgment right here and now) “The wrath of God is ever coming on the children of disobedience.”
Is it possible that the disease called AIDS is one of God’s indictments on a generation of people who have by and large shunned His standards of morality) The difficult part to understand with AIDS, however, is why those who have not sinned have also contracted the disease.
Consider the innocent baby, for example, who through no choice of its own, is born to a mother who is on drugs, and who used a contaminated needle. So not only does the mother have AIDS, but she passes it along to an innocent child. How do you explain that?
What about a fine Christian girl who marries one whom she thinks is an unblemished young man, but afterward she comes down with AIDS because her young husband was involved in a homosexual relationship before marriage, and she never knew it. She becomes an innocent victim, and how do you explain it?
How do you explain that a man of God–a dedicated pastor–(who was a hemophiliac) should contract AIDS through a blood transfusion, and eventually dies as a result) These things cannot be explained. When individuals choose to transgress God’s laws of morality, it is not too difficult to understand why they would reap the consequences. But when innocent people contract the disease, the issue is clouded.
We need to remember, however, that at least one New Testament passage gives us some light on this matter. Remember again the account from John 9:1-3 regarding the man blind from birth: “Now as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth. And His disciples asked Him, saying, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind? Jesus answered, ‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him.’ ” From this we can conclude that at times there is no apparent link between sin and sickness, and the account of the blind man warns us against assuming such a link.
But now, having said all this, what should be our response to AIDS? Several things, I believe, need to be emphasized:
1) As a church, we need to emphasize as never before the importance of heterosexual monogamy–which refers to a man and a women who have entered into a covenantal relationship through honorable marriage, and who are fulfilling that relationship as God intended. In technical terms, such a relationship is called heterosexual monogamy. That is God’s standard and we need to uphold it!
2) We need to oppose and stand against the lifestyles which many are practicing today. These include drug abuse, homosexual relationships, bisexual relationships, casual sex, “shacking up,” adultery, etc. These types of lifestyles are an indictment upon our society, and surely bring the wrath of God upon us!
3) We not only need to educate our children and young people about AIDS (and other venereal diseases), but more importantly, we need to instruct them about what the Bible says concerning morality. Just telling adolescents and young people to “be careful,” or to use contraceptives, is going against God’s design. We need to teach our children and young people that any type of sexual relationship outside an honorable heterosexual marriage is sin.
4) We need to deal with the whole AIDS issue compassionately. AIDS in our day is probably like the leprosy of Jesus’ day. In His day, lepers were shunned, ostracized, and treated as outcasts. But the Bible says, “And Jesus, moved with compassion (did you get that?), put forth his hand, and touched him.” Jesus did not shun the man plagued with leprosy, but reached out with compassion and healed him.
We too, as we come in contact with AIDS victims and their families, need to reach out with the love and compassion of our Lord. Yes, there is a plague among us, and probably it will get worse before it gets better. But let us remember the words of the hymn-writer: “This is my Father’s world, O let me ne’er forget, That though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the Ruler yet.”