This question is extremely relevant today, especially to us in South Africa where nearly forty percent of the black population is HIV positive. But is there a Biblical answer to this pandemic? I cannot find a direct answer anywhere in the Bible that gives us an answer to this and many of our current problems in life. So what do we do? How do I then have to treat people that live with HIV/Aids, especially in the light of our constitution and the whole human rights issue?
In order to get an answer, we have to, like with any other problem in life, analyse it. We have to look at its origin, how it is communicated from person to person, and only then can we look at what the Bible declares about this. That is the only way I know of.
To get to the origin of HIV/Aids, we have to go and delve in the history books. The first report where I read about this, was dated somewhere in the early eighties. In this report reference is made to case zero, a person with a very loose homosexual life style. He worked at a international airways company, and according to this report most probably got the virus from having sex with an ape. Everyone who died of Aids in the first year, could be linked directly to him, and practiced a similar lifestyle.
This also gives us an indication why we are still struggling to find a cure for it, as it was a virus that spread from an animal to a human. We also have not had exposure to this condition for centuries, like with other viruses and illnesses. As far as I know, up to today, it is also not yet possible to isolate the virus.
How is it communicated or spread?
Basically there are two methods. The first method is by having sexual contact with someone who has the virus. The sexual method is the most prevalent method. The second method is by receiving blood from a person infected. This could happen by using a syringe used by someone who is infected, like drug addicts, and by blood transfusion.
In South Africa the virus is spreading rapidly by sexual contact. That is why we have all sorts of campaigns for people to use condoms, the safe sex and love life campaigns. The virus also spreads from mother to child during the birth process. We are all aware of the current fights going on about the free provision of retroviral drugs to babies at hospitals.
But should we, as Christians really get involved in this, let alone trying to find an answer?
I believe that every situation in life affects my life as a Christian, and therefore demands a Biblical answer. I would like to start with what Paul said about this question. “For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet. And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.” (Romans 1:26-32)
These are awful words that Paul is using here. But why does Paul do this? I want to use two examples. The first example I heard from an elderly lady. She described it as follows: If I enjoy a beer or other alcoholic drink, and decide to go to the pub and get myself drunk, the headache I will wake up with in the morning, is my own responsibility. I decided to get drunk and therefore I have to pay for this. I will have to buy my own medicines for this, and hopefully feel better after taking it. Let us take the same type of example, and give it a slightly different flavour. After getting myself drunk, I end up picking up a girl and end up having sex with her. Unfortunately for me she did not tell me that she was HIV positive, and hence I will test positive eventually. The problem is now not mine, but the government’s problem, and societies problem. I don’t have to worry about getting medicine for this, as the government or society has to provide for this free of charge. The fact that I will pay with my life is beside the point.
The second example I want to use will put the spotlight on a different aspect. If I am not happy with my spouse and decide to kill him or her, I can use a slow poison like arsenic to kill the person over time. I know of a case in our country’s history where this happened. The poisoning took place over a long period of time, and only after the persons death it was found that he was poisoned. Exactly the same thing happens with HIV/Aids, except that I do not need repeat dosages to kill the person. The only difference is that if I use HIV/Aids, I am not counted as a murderer.
What do we glean from these examples? If I misuse alcohol, the problem is mine. If I sin sexually, the problem is that of government, and eventually, the taxpayer. If I use arsenic to poison someone, I am a murderer, while if I use sexual methods, it is not murder, but I can now demand medication as I have my rights even though it is sin.
Let us leave the subject there and see what the Bible tells us about similar situations. While we are looking at HIV/Aids, let us stick to sexual sins, and the effect it had on people’s lives.
“And it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born unto them, That the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose. And the LORD said, My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years. There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown. And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart. And the LORD said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them.” (Genesis 6:1-7)
We all know the history of Noah. He and his family were the only survivors. Why? Because of sexual sin. No exceptions. The LORD already used this portion of scripture to tell us what He thinks of sexual sin. It is punishable with death. Why? Every other sin is outside our body. Sex is the only sin where we use our bodies to sin with, and as temples of the Holy Spirit, that is not allowed. The LORD will not allow His Spirit to become part of sin.
The next example also comes from Genesis. “And there came two angels to Sodom at even; and Lot sat in the gate of Sodom: and Lot seeing them rose up to meet them; and he bowed himself with his face toward the ground; And he said, Behold now, my lords, turn in, I pray you, into your servant’s house, and tarry all night, and wash your feet, and ye shall rise up early, and go on your ways. And they said, Nay; but we will abide in the street all night. And he pressed upon them greatly; and they turned in unto him, and entered into his house; and he made them a feast, and did bake unleavened bread, and they did eat. But before they lay down, the men of the city, even the men of Sodom, compassed the house round, both old and young, all the people from every quarter: And they called unto Lot, and said unto him, Where are the men which came in to thee this night? bring them out unto us, that we may know them.” (Genesis 19:1-5)
Sodom was destroyed because of sexual homosexual behaviour. Nothing else. No, the men of Sodom even wanted to have sex with the angels the LORD sent to Lot. What was left of Sodom? Nothing, it was utterly destroyed. That is what happens if we do not believe the LORD. We think we can continue in our own ways and the LORD will accept our sins. Never. He has never done that in the history of Israel, so why would He do it to you today? I know there are even pastors and reverends who not only say that nothing is wrong with it but even practice it. I have news for them, as they make the LORD out as being a liar. His Word declares that He is the same today as He was yesterday and as He will be tomorrow. If He destroyed everybody in the days of Noah, and Sodom in the time of Lot, why would He accept it today? We even read in the laws of Moses that anyone who would try to practice homosexuality was to be stoned immediately, with no exceptions.
You might argue that all the cases so far had nothing to do with Gods chosen nation, Israel. Lots descendants were the Moabites and Ammonites, so what about His people? “And it came to pass in those days, when there was no king in Israel, that there was a certain Levite sojourning on the side of mount Ephraim, who took to him a concubine out of Bethlehemjudah. And his concubine played the whore against him, and went away from him unto her father’s house to Bethlehemjudah, and was there four whole months. And her husband arose, and went after her, to speak friendly unto her, and to bring her again, having his servant with him, and a couple of asses: and she brought him into her father’s house: and when the father of the damsel saw him, he rejoiced to meet him. And his father in law, the damsel’s father, retained him; and he abode with him three days: so they did eat and drink, and lodged there.” (Judges 19:1-4) This section is only as a background to the next example, in order for us to better understand the whole story. They stayed a couple more days and eventually decided to go back to the Levites town, and decided to overnight in a town in Benjamin, part of Israel.
But what happened there? “And, behold, there came an old man from his work out of the field at even, which was also of mount Ephraim; and he sojourned in Gibeah: but the men of the place were Benjamites. And when he had lifted up his eyes, he saw a wayfaring man in the street of the city: and the old man said, Whither goest thou? and whence comest thou? And he said unto him, We are passing from Bethlehemjudah toward the side of mount Ephraim; from thence am I: and I went to Bethlehemjudah, but I am now going to the house of the LORD; and there is no man that receiveth me to house. Yet there is both straw and provender for our asses; and there is bread and wine also for me, and for thy handmaid, and for the young man which is with thy servants: there is no want of any thing. And the old man said, Peace be with thee; howsoever let all thy wants lie upon me; only lodge not in the street. So he brought him into his house, and gave provender unto the asses: and they washed their feet, and did eat and drink. Now as they were making their hearts merry, behold, the men of the city, certain sons of Belial, beset the house round about, and beat at the door, and spake to the master of the house, the old man, saying, Bring forth the man that came into thine house, that we may know him.” (Judges 19:16-22) These men were from the tribe of Benjamin, in other words, part of Gods’ people. Their request was not agreed to, and in their anger they grabbed this Levites wife and raped her the whole nightlong. The next morning they found her dead outside the house.
This Levite then cut her body in twelve parts and took it to the elders to seek an answer as to what to do. Everyone representing Israel agreed to go to the town and ask that the culprits be handed over to the elders. The people in the town did not do it, and the next part of the Bible tells us the result: “And there fell of Benjamin eighteen thousand men; all these were men of valour. And they turned and fled toward the wilderness unto the rock of Rimmon: and they gleaned of them in the highways five thousand men; and pursued hard after them unto Gidom, and slew two thousand men of them. So that all which fell that day of Benjamin were twenty and five thousand men that drew the sword; all these were men of valour. But six hundred men turned and fled to the wilderness unto the rock Rimmon, and abode in the rock Rimmon four months. And the men of Israel turned again upon the children of Benjamin, and smote them with the edge of the sword, as well the men of every city, as the beast, and all that came to hand: also they set on fire all the cities that they came to.” (Judges 20:44-48).
Something that stood out to me when I read through the story, was that Israel asked the LORD what to do, and the answer was the same every time: “(And the children of Israel went up and wept before the LORD until even, and asked counsel of the LORD, saying, Shall I go up again to battle against the children of Benjamin my brother? And the LORD said, Go up against him.) (Judges 20:23) The LORD does not tolerate sexual sin. We live at a time when we are so distant from Him that we think we can get away with it. The LORD told Israel in Exodus 20 that He want to be close to them, which they didn’t want. We are exactly the same. We do not want to have the LORD with us every moment of our lives. When He is kept at a distance, it is very easy to think that He will not notice this sin, but when He lives inside of you, it is a different story. Then you will hate sin as He hates it. This is the God that we are afraid of. This is the God that calls you to justice. He wants to be close to you, but you have to allow Him.
How do we then react to people with HIV/Aids? We have to teach them not to sin any longer. The LORD will accept no loose sexual life. Teach the person that someone poisoned him or her, and that by continuing with that lifestyle, the person is committing murder. Teach them that there is forgiveness of sin through Jesus Christ, but then I will have to change my life. I will have to exchange my life for His. Teach the person that they are responsible for their own situation, and as such, should bear their own cost for this. Teach them that they cannot demand that others should pay for their medicine, as they chose that lifestyle.
Should the state pay for the treatment of such a person? No, the person is responsible for his own medication. Let me use an example. If you suddenly find that you have cancer, do you think that the state will pay for the treatment? No, you will be expected to pay yourself. Why then should people with HIV/Aids get treated any different? The only reason they are getting preferential treatment is because they intimidate everyone around them. Does a murderer have the right to intimidate the general public? In South Africa, yes. We all want to do good to them because you never know when you might get it, and I am not going to pay out of my own pocket for treatment.
But what about people who got the virus through other means apart from sex? What about babies that get the virus at birth? Do I have to react the same? Definitely not, as the person did not receive the virus through sexual sin. My conduct with them should be one and the same as with anyone else who does not have HIV/Aids. In fact, I might even spend more time with these people, as they need our support.
In conclusion. Aids is the punishment the LORD is meeting out to people living in sexual sin. But I have a responsibility to bring the Gospel of Jesus to them, to teach them that there is forgiveness. The LORD still wants that every person be saved.