Recently I was a part of a pastor’s roundtable discussion on how the church can and should help people infected with HIV. We discussed how HIV has devastated our society in ways we don’t speak about. In reality, HIV has transcended ethnic, socio-economic, educational and denominational barriers. As one person eloquently put it, (modifying Scripture) “It (HIV) doesn’t have respect of person.” She was saying HIV can and will touch the lives of Christians and non-Christians alike.
We heard presentations by people infected with HIV. It was amazing to see how strong these people were as they volunteered to tell their story. They discussed how family and friends abandoned them. One speaker changed the flow of the discussion. She stated she was hurt the most by “church people” because they rejected her. The other speakers mostly agreed with her assessment. Overwhelmingly, the speakers stated they didn’t feel accepted or loved by “the church.”
I’ve learned it can be a little dicey to say, “the church.” That’s a broad patch to cover because the phrase is a bit nebulous since people make up the church. I’ve found it’s usually individual(s), rather than the entire institution, who have hurt people. In fact, I can’t recall one person leaving the church because of “the church.” The common reason they left the church has been because one person made them mad. Why am I talking about that? We must realize we’re a link to bringing people to church and help keeping them there. Love is a powerful tool. The HIV speakers needed and wanted love. They wanted to know God loved them and their fellow Christian loved them also.
One of the speakers visited our church. We provided her an opportunity to talk about her trials, tribulations and how the church can help. She provided us with great insight and information. She was a bit emotional. Heck, who wouldn’t be?. I gave her a hug after her speech. I’m not certain why I did it. However, it seemed to help her some.
I thought about that hug for two weeks. The “aha moment” came when I remembered a quote by John C. Maxwell. He said, “No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care.” I love that quote. However, Jesus’ words are even better. “Love your neighbor as yourself.” I must admit, loving people isn’t always easy. I’m certain many of us have had to deal with interpersonal issues with those in and outside the church. Yet we are commanded to love. Love can and does change things. Our responsiblity is to love like Jesus. Hurting people really need to know the love of God. They need to know that He loves them and He will never leave them nor forsake them. Show someone you love them this week. Make a phone call to someone who isn’t expecting it. Forgive a past wrong.