I recently attended the annual meeting of the United Methodist Global AIDS Fund in New York City. I have served on the Fund's steering committee for the past year. Our challenge is to raise $1 for every United Methodist member and to distribute those funds to organizations and agencies around the world who minister to those affected and infected with HIV.
At this meeting, my friend, Greg Jenks, who founded and leads ZOE, a ministry that cares for AIDS orphans in Zimbabwe and Rwanda, reminded us that though the Church must address and teach about the causes and effects of HIV, we as the Church have a lot to learn from HIV itself about our own imperfections.
You see, no one dies from HIV or AIDS. No, people die from the opportunistic infections created when AIDS destroys the body's defenses. People with HIV/AIDS can die from any number of related illnesses because the system designed to provide their strength and health has failed.
It is similar to the life of the Church. Most dangerous to our future is when we forget to simply live as the Body of Christ. When we fail to do this, we become chronic in our spiritual disorder, eventually wearing down the "Body's" defenses.
But, friends, there is a CURE for the chronic life that ails us, and it is simpler than you might expect.
First, we must return to lives of Compassion. Jesus says that others will know we belong to Him by how we love one another. Compassion recalibrates our values, mission and vision as the people of God, and turns us away from our own self-interest to the interests of others.
Second, we must realize the importance of Understanding. Understanding the situation of our brothers and sisters, putting ourselves in "their shoes" so to speak, changes our perspective and refocuses our resources, allowing for us to make real and tangible differences in the world.
Third, we must reclaim the power of Response. The power of faith is not measured by how much we "say" we love Jesus, but by becoming the "hands and feet" of Jesus in our world. Don't tell me you love Jesus... Show me!
Finally, we must raise the temperature for Encouragement and make it a "lifestyle" for the Body of Christ. Encouragement means seeking solutions instead of judgement and reconciliation instead of condemnation and division. And, encouragement recruits others along the way to a life of true discipleship, and builds real community.
Sure, the Church is under attack, but not necessarily from outside forces. No, our greatest danger is the spiritual virus that seeks to destroy our basic defenses and make us vulnerable to ourselves.
But, friends, there is a way to attack the spiritual virus that too often plagues our churches. And, it will not only provide a cure from our malady, but will rejuvenate our mission and our message for the world.
Be Salt and Light... You Matter!
1 Corinthians 15: 58