AE vol. 44, no. 10, Oct 1987
AIDS Part I
 AE vol. 44, no. 10, Oct 1987
It's not possible today to open a newspaper, or watch a television news coverage, without hearing or reading about AIDS — Acquired Immune Defi¬ciency Syndrome — a fatal disease now killing thousands of people around the world! Even more sobering is the prediction that AIDS will soon be the killer of millions!
Fifty thousand Australians are now believed to be suffering from AIDS! Health authorities tell us that by 1990 — just three years away — a quarter of a million Australians will have the virus! Thirty mil¬lion people worldwide now suffer from the disease, and even as I write this article, one new case every three minutes will be diagnosed somewhere around the globe.
It is expected that by 1995, possibly one quarter of the African population will be suffering from AIDS. Africa now has an AIDS carrier population estimated be¬tween five and ten million. In 1986,8% of pregnant women attending prenatal clin¬ics in Zaire were found to be infected. In Kigali, Rwanda, 18% of blood donors were HIV-positive. In Lusaka, Zambia, 33% of men aged 30 to 35 were infected.
In Nov. '86, San Francisco's health department reported a record 76 deaths for the month, as well as 108 new cases, bringing the city's overall AIDS tally to 2,654 cases, of whom 1,517 have died. Of that tally, 84% were homosexual or bisex¬ual men. Doctors now believe that up to 65% of the city's gay populace may now be infected with the virus!
American health officials are on record as saying that if the expected ravages of the disease continue, the USA would be bankrupt by the year 2000 because of the cost needed to hospitalise and treat ter¬minally ill AIDS patients. Simply put, the economic system would not be able to cope with the drain of funds needed to help the dying!
All quite sobering and alarming statis¬tics! But where does the AIDS epidemic leave the church?
Challenge to the church
As I pondered these frightening statis¬tics I began to ask myself whether our churches were ready to face the AIDS cri¬sis. Mo longer can we say that AIDS is a disease sent by God as a judgement on homosexuals. Sadly, history has always shown that the innocent will suffer for the guilty — now, innocent people are con¬tracting AIDS through no fault of their own. We have all been saddened by the regular reports of people who have con¬tracted AIDS through blood transfusions. In my own state of Queensland three inno¬cent babies recently died after they were given infected blood at birth. A case of the innocent suffering for the guilty!
AIDS is now a disease which is totally ingrained within the heterosexual com¬munity. If this is the case, our churches will soon be faced with the responsibility of ministering to people suffering from AIDS — not unlike the way Jesus minis¬tered to those with leprosy — the "untouchables' of His day.
I can see a close comparison between AIDS and leprosy. Lepers were the unclean people of Christ's day, a system which had been established under Old Testament law (Lev. 13:43-46; Num. 5:2). However, Jesus touched the leper when no-one else would! Look at the dramatic and wonderful story of Matt. 8:1-4.
Picture the scenario: Jesus descends from the mountain with a multitude fol¬lowing Him. Suddenly, the excitement of the moment is broken with the chilling cry 'Unclean, Unclean!' A great murmer erupts from the crowd as they draw back in hor¬ror searching for the leper in their midst.
The power of touch
And then suddenly, a voice, 'Lord, if You will, You can make me clean.' And with the voice, the sight of a pitiful figure, one marred and marked by the ravages of the disease, almost overcome by the creeping scourge of leprosy! The words themselves are eloquent, but the very source of the cry brings qualities of appeal and passion.
And Jesus puts forth His hand and does the impossible — He touches a leper! The crowd gasp in disbelief and immediately the leprosy is gone. In Jesus, the process of death had become the process of life.
If we are to be committed to'... preach the gospel to the poor; to heal the bro¬kenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, to set at liberty them that are bruised', we will encounter AIDS face to face. If it hasn't already occurred, AIDS sufferers will come into our church, faced with the agony of death without peace, and find Jesus as Lord and Saviour. It is also inevitable that people will come to Jesus in our midst, be gloriously saved, and then find they have AIDS because of a lifestyle they lived prior to coming to Christ.
How will we minister to these people? They will come to us terminally ill. Do we turn our back on them and tell them they are experiencing God's wrath? Have we taken the time to better educate ourselves to understand this horrific killer? Are our congregations prepared to have fellow¬ship with AIDS sufferers? These are very important questions we must address if we are to fulfil Christ's mandate of reach¬ing a lost world. The question therefore arises — is the church ready for AIDS?
Jesus must always be our model for ministry. I believe we see in His life the pattern for our ministry to the world — a world which includes AIDS sufferers. Jesus touched a hurting and dying world, and therein lies the key — the power of touch.
Through His ministry and teachings Jesus revealed at least seven different 'touches', or forms of personal ministry where he reached people at their point of need. Let us look at these areas, and see their application to our ministry today.
 AE vol. 44, no. 10, Oct 1987
The touch of love
In Luke 15 we read of Christ's account of the prodigal son. Verse 20 holds the key here: 'And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.'
Here we observe the story of restoration with a son who had abandoned his home and family. Yet, the reunion reveals the father giving his son a touch of love as he meets him with a kiss of reconciliation.
Really, the father could have waited at the door, or even inside the house, yet he chose to run out and meet his son. He met the boy with a touch of love, throwing his arms around him in an act of unreserved forgiveness.
We must learn to deal in love with peo¬ple. I appreciate the words of James Robinson in this regard when he says, 'I never condemn a sinner, 1 condemn sin!' What powerful words.
Today, as never before, we all desper¬ately need the touch of love.
The touch of compassion
The key verse here is Luke 10:34: 'And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him.'
This particular verse clearly reveals the touch of compassion shown by the Good Samaritan. The Samaritan just did not look upon the fallen man, for he poured oil and wine into his wounds — all of which has a beautiful scriptural application.
Just as the man on the road had been robbed and torn by human hands, so too have many of us today. We have been wounded by life, by circumstances, by the business world, and robbed by all kinds of situations. In essence, many of us are walking around as 'dead people', without a sense of purpose, destiny and direction. We have lost our vision.
However, there is a touch of compas¬sion — a touch of release, through the oil of the Holy Spirit, the wine of joy. The world desperately needs to see and feel the touch of compassion — our compassion. So many people we will contact will be hurt and wounded, left to die by the circum¬stances of life.
God give us compassion today for the
In recent years, there has been quite a lot of debate over the subject of what has been called the hyper-faith or 'Word' movement and, to be sure, there have been many excesses in that area of Chris¬tian expression; some folk have unfortu¬nately moved into presumption, or have done bizarre things in the name of the Lord.
While not endorsing these unfortunate practices in any way, it needs to be said that, on the other hand, there are a great number of people who have been streng-
thened in their faith and brought closer to God by those who have encouraged them to get into the Word of God to believe it and to confess it. I am grateful for any emphasis that will put the Word of God where it belongs, that will open people's hearts to the truth that is revealed in that Word.
A living word
The Bible is a living book — it is not a mere textbook. It has the power to repro¬duce in us the likeness of Jesus Christ. The
 AE vol. 44, no. 10, Oct 1987
lost and the hurting. Jesus saw the multi¬tude and had compassion on them. We need to have the motivation to reach out to people as we have never done before, until they feel the touch of compassion. The principal of this truth is the des¬perate need to touch people with the compassion of Jesus. We must meet peo¬ple where they are, and never, ever pass them by!
The touch of strength
In Luke 15:5 we read: 'And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing.'
The scenario here is that of a lost sheep being found as its master went out of his way to find it. When the sheep was found, he put it on his shoulders and then carried it home rejoicing.
As Christians we need to be able to show the shoulder of ministry. To 'shoulder' speaks of responsibility — the responsi¬bility of carrying the lost one to the fold rejoicing. It speaks of doing things for the lost until they become strong and are able to look after themselves.
The shepherd could have said to this sheep, 'Mow that you are found, you follow me home.' But, no! He put the sheep on his shoulders and carried it home rejoicing.
Today's world desperately needs the touch of strength that only Christ can give — it needs the ability we have as Chris¬tians to see each other through difficult and agonising times.
Often the load will be heavy. Often we will need to carry that burden for some
time. Often the load will require selfless¬ness, love, care and complete understand¬ing. The words of a song made popular some years ago graphically capture the spirit of this touch of strength: "He 'aint heavy, he's my brother.'
Next month I will pursue this theme. Meantime let me challenge you with this: Are you prepared to reach out and touch the modern leper — the AIDS sufferer — with the same love, compassion and strength that Jesus showed? I trust so, and that your church, where you fellow¬ship, is indeed ready to face AIDS.
Dr. Reginald Klimionok is Senior Minister of Garden City Christian Church, Mt Gravatt, Qld.