The other day I was reminded of a conversation I had with a pastor in Uganda. I had complimented him on the Church in Uganda and how it was responding to AIDS and orphans. The clearly evangelical churches were discussing HIV/AIDS in churches and encouraging families to take in orphans. They were taking practical steps to help their communities. I explained that in America there tends to be a dichotomy between evangelicalism and social justice. Evangelical churches are suspicious of the social justice work liberal churches engage in and vice versa. He was shocked. He said, “But you cannot have one without the other. Jesus did not only preach. He also fed and healed people. If I share the gospel with someone, he accepts Jesus, but collapses from hunger on the way home, what good is it?”
So the other day I met with one of the Mozambican Oasis team leaders who is heading up a project on abstinence and faithfulness. He told me about a meeting he had with 50 pastors concerning AIDS and getting them on board with this program. Most of the pastors responded positively, agreeing that there was a need to discuss matters related to HIV/AIDS in churches. However, some of the pastors were against it. They said it is not the Church’s place to discuss such matters. It is the government’s. Some pastors also believe that AIDS is an unforgivable sin, and that those who die from it cannot go to heaven. “That’s not right,” Manuel said. “The Church must be concerned with AIDS because AIDS is in the Church. People in churches have AIDS. People in churches are dying of AIDS. People in the communities are dying. And the incidence of AIDS is increasing. It is the responsibility of the Church.”
Fortunately, it is only some pastors who believe this. More pastors are realizing the need to discuss matters surrounding HIV/AIDS.
How much are we discussing these issues in the US and UK (or elsewhere)? I don’t necessarily mean issues of HIV/AIDS because that is not a big issue in many of our communities. But other issues of sexuality. Other health and lifestyle issues. (What is the American church doing about obesity, for example? Or do we say it’s for the government and/or healthcare system to take care of?) Other issues of concern for communities. Do churches even know the issues of their communities? What are Americans dying of (both physically and spiritually)? What are the British dying of?
Jesus did not only preach…