Isn’t AIDS a disease for “queers and drug addicts”? Isn’t AIDS just God’s judgment on those how oppose His will and ways?
It was in this environment that I was asked to work in AIDS prevention for a Christian NGO (non-government organization). I had to sort through some widely held attitudes and beliefs.
From an early age I knew that one does not get to heaven by being good. What attracted me to God was a promise of eternity — that I did not have to live in uncertainty of what happened after I died. As I grew older, I discovered that my faith was more than that. A relationship with God encompassed the temporal as well as the eternal; life on earth could be meaningful, as Jesus promised, yet I had a rather myopic view of the gospel. I saw two parts to life; a temporal, lasting 80 or 90 years and an eternal. The temporal was a mere dot compared to the infinite line of our eternal lives.
Based on that, I began making unconscious judgments about how I related to people. Simply put, it seemed clear to me that life on the line was more significant than life on the dot! Thus, my efforts focused on the eternal line. Things like poverty, war, disease and human misery were temporal. Though this is consistent with the Bible, it is not the whole story.
When I was asked to work in AIDS prevention, you can imagine how I approached it; AIDS was temporal and people needed a relationship with God, period! Then I was confronted with Jesus’ approach to life; go to and accept people as they are, share His love, heal their disease and have compassion on them. This had a profound impact on my life. As I explored the scriptures further, it became clear to me that Jesus was not only concerned with the line – the dot was significant as well! I tried to move on, but there was something there that would not let my attention go.
I came to the inescapable conclusion that my emphasis on the unending line of eternal destiny, to the exclusion of the dot of temporal life, was wrong. I realized that I needed to care about the whole person, just like Jesus did. I needed to value both the line and the dot. I realized that my focus had been myopic and narrow.
Whether looking at the line or the dot, the only way we can earn a place in eternity with God (which includes now) is by being absolutely perfect – every moment of our lives. God’s perfect nature and intolerance for imperfection (sin) demanded this. Who can live a perfect life? Not me! But the Bible says God wants to spend eternity with us.
As God required a payment for sin, Jesus, God’s only son, paid it; allowing Himself to be executed. Because Jesus was perfect, His sacrifice was an acceptable payment for mankind’s sin. God raised Him from death, showing that the world need not be separated from Him again. As a child, my parents explained that, to receive the benefit of Christ’s sacrifice, I had to accept it. I did!
Eternity is a concern. I still believe that there is a line and a dot. But I also believe that the two are not mutually exclusive. The line starts with and includes the dot! I believe that God’s love and care is not only for people’s eternal destiny, but for their concerns in this life – happiness, provision and fulfillment. Jesus did not intend for us to look at one dimension of people’s lives at the exclusion of every other.