Spiritual AIDS

“Pastor!” It was Sonja. She had a homosexual twin brother who had contracted AIDS in the bowels of San Francisco. Life was fading fast, and Jim wanted to come home to his churchgoing sister’s family so he could die in peace. Sonja wondered if I would visit Jim’s hospital room and anoint him.

“Certainly, if he wants me to.”

Jim did. I explained that the anointing service would involve dedicating his life to Christ. It was not a magic cure all but a willingness to submit to God’s will, in faith that He can and will heal, but only according to His timetable. For many, this will be at the final resurrection.

Jim agreed to these terms and accepted Jesus. After leading him in the sinners’ prayer, I anointed him in his hospital room — surrounded by sobbing women, his beauty shop clients.

Jim did receive a miracle of healing, not from AIDS but from guilt, shame and alienation from God. As his life faded away in the weeks that followed, we often spoke of Christ and the glories of eternity with Him. Jim’s sister transformed her home into a hospice, and his gay friends were always present at our discussions and prayers. I hugged them all without fear — gays and lesbians know the difference between a Christian embrace and the other kind. Jim especially seemed to appreciate the touch of someone beyond the homosexual subculture.

Death came all too soon. Sonja’s family asked me to have the funeral at our church. The following Sabbath afternoon 100 homosexuals showed up at our church in all their regalia. Our members warmly escorted their gay guests from the foyer into the sanctuary.

In my memorial message, God opened the door to share the gospel. I explained how all of us are born with spiritual AIDS — Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, inherited from Adam. We all are doomed with an irresistible, incurable disease of the soul (Rom. 7:24). God in mercy sent us another Adam — a new corporate representative — who overcame where our first father failed us. By Christ’s life, death and resurrection, a new humanity began in the body of Christ (Eph. 2:14–16). Through baptism we signify our transition from our AIDS experience in the old Adam to Christ’s new human race, participating in the faith community of the church.

People seemed to get it. At the subsequent luncheon, gay guests openly discussed God and their interest in knowing Him more. A lesbian recording artist seemed particularly interested. She gave me her CD. The songs communicated a lot of pain and anger with which I hope she got some help from our church.

That night about midnight my phone rang. It was Jim’s former domestic partner. Excitedly yet thoughtfully, he testified he had never expected to experience God in the way he did at our church.

He was wondering if we could meet and talk about Jesus. And our church.

July 24, 2014 / Perspective