FEW social issues have received the attention that acquired immune deficiency syndrome has over the last few years. This is one issue that touches something either controversial or personal, moral or political, in almost everyone's point of view. If this terrible thing were limited to a small group of people, then it might be an unsurprising response for everyone not directly affected by it to look the other way. This is one human response that has a long history and that goes back to New Testament times. At least that's one way to look at Christ Jesus' parable of the good Samaritan. You probably know how it goes.
A man falls among thieves, is assaulted and left half dead. A priest comes along the same road, sees the man, but passes by on the other side of the road. The next traveler is a Levite, who does the same. Finally a Samaritan comes along and has compassion on the injured man. He binds up the man's wounds, brings him to an inn, and takes care of him. The parable is recorded in the tenth chapter of Luke's Gospel.
Bible commentators point out that the benefactor of the story, the Samaritan, is a member of a despised sect as far as Jesus' listeners are concerned. Thus when Jesus told the parable in response to the question ``Who is my neighbour?'' the parable had a poignant message.
Maybe we could argue that the man who fell among thieves was essentially innocent, whereas certain maladies and diseases are rooted in essentially immoral behavior, and that therefore the parable doesn't directly relate to AIDS sufferers. Unfortunately, no matter how beguiling this interpretation might seem, it still leaves us with the question of how to respond to the threat of AIDS in society.
When virulent disease threatens human life -- and this one does threaten even the lives of unknowing children as well as unsuspecting marriage partners -- we are pressed to look more deeply into the nature of man and his relationship to God.
We've gone a long way since the old theological view that largely envisioned God as a harsh judge handing out sentences to hell for deviations from His law. When such views have weighed heavily on people over the centuries, one could still find, even in the Old Testament, prophetic declarations of God's tenderness and His role as a redeemer rather than as an executioner.
Sexual ambiguities, societal strife, economic inequities, drug addiction, loneliness, desperation, anger, and sin make harsh and sometimes deadly attacks upon people's moral judgments. Yes, sin must be repented of -- the evil that defiles the image of man as God's beloved child. But the whole intent of Christ's Christianity was to rescue humanity from evil, and this included healing in the broadest and deepest meaning -- morally, spiritually, physically.
While harmful acts have to stop, those who would be healers must develop the spiritual capacity to see something of the absolute allness of God that first undermines and eventually overcomes the claim and thrust of evil in human life. Even the strongest conviction that one must pay for wrongdoing doesn't of itself engender the spiritual power to heal sickness. And when it comes to an epidemic, a revulsion against disease isn't sufficient to break the hold of disease.
AIDS, it has been said, is a symptom of the moral malaise of our times. Famine, poverty, environmental destruction, regional warfare, all point to the need for profound spiritual progress among mankind. And doesn't it need to be, in accord with Christ's teachings, spiritual progress that develops in us moral courage and strength, compassion, unselfishness -- a genuine spirit of love?
This is what the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, felt had been realized in the reemergence of Christian healing. At one point she wrote broadly of the impact of scientific, Christian healing: ``Against the fatal beliefs that error is as real as Truth, that evil is equal in power to good if not superior, and that discord is as normal as harmony, even the hope of freedom from the bondage of sickness and sin has little inspiration to nerve endeavor. When we come to have more faith in the truth of being than we have in error, more faith in Spirit than in matter, more faith in living than in dying, more faith in God than in man, then no material suppositions can prevent us from healing the sick and destroying error.''1
As this profound change takes hold in our lives, we'll be drawn to the power of good over evil. We won't be immobilized by disaster, but through spiritual affection and understanding we'll find the truth that does direct humanity toward divine Life and Love. We'll find a way to free ourselves and our fellow beings from what would deny or claim to destroy the idea of man as God's spiritual image and likeness.
This reformation can begin with not looking the other way or not passing to the other side of the road when we find our own neighbors fallen and left half dead. But our efforts won't end there. Like the Samaritan, we'll find a way to bind up the wounds and play a significant role in the reemergence of genuine spiritual healing.
1Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 368.
BIBLEVERSE: It is of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness. Lamentations 3:22, 23