Tuesday, December 01, 2009

To An Absent Friend on World AIDS Day

(Update of a post from a few years back)

He was a tall, strapping, muscular guy who had worked in the offshore oil business.

He had a very nice high tenor singing voice, and loved to use it.

He loved to talk. And to laugh. He & Lisa & I did both rather frequently.

And he had HIV. Which became full-blown AIDS. Which took his life far too soon.

The means by which he contracted HIV is utterly irrelevant here. HIV can be transmitted/contracted in multiple ways, some sexual--homosexual and heterosexual--and some not.

It's World AIDS Day. Which always causes me to remember my friend, and to miss his company.

I met him at the church I attend. His was a faith that inspired...inspires...me greatly. He confessed that he had not been faithful to live according to his faith. I assured him that I have my own batch of sins, which I submit is a much larger batch than his was. I 'spect you have your own batch too...we all do.

He taught me oh-so-much about love and grace. He gave both freely.

In one of our chats, he told me that he felt like a man without a country.

1. He said many in Christian circles who knew of his illness kept their distance from him because of his illness.

Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.”
Luke 7:39

Shame on us!!

Then turning toward the woman he [Jesus] said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” Then those who were at table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this, who even forgives sins?” And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
Luke 7:44-50

2. My friend also said that when he went to the AIDS Support Group meetings, they kept their distance because of his Christian faith. Ironic, isn't it? One of the more marginalized groups in our society would further marginalize one of their own because of his religious beliefs.

"I left the church because I found so little grace there...I came back because I found none anywhere else."
Philip Yancey

So what will you do with World AIDS day?

Will you ignore it completely?

Will you wag your finger & speak of HIV/AIDS as God's curse on a lifestyle?

(If so, you need to ponder how you'd respond to the heart-broken parents of an infant in, say, Africa, who has been diagnosed with AIDS & explain to them God's curse on their tiny baby's lifestyle...)

Will you wag your finger at the church and at Christians for the above finger wagging?


Will you honor the memories of those you know who have suffered and died from this horrible disease by how you live your life?

Will you pray for and love and serve those who have the illness now?

(BTW, what's your stereotype of an HIV sufferer? I ask, because I have a HS acquaintance who is HIV positive. And a fitness machine. A lawyer who rides his bicycle all over the place competitively & who does triathlons & such. He regularly does stuff like high-speed 100-mile bike rides. A few summers ago, he was the first openly gay, HIV-positive person to do Race Across the West where he competed with the world's greatest endurance athletes. The race is from Ocean Side CA to Durango CO. That's 860 miles in 3 days! It's billed as the toughest part of the toughest race in the world ["Ride Across America"]. Jim, too has helped crash my own stereotypes...)

Will you pray for and give toward those who are spending their lives to eradicate this illness?

God have mercy on us. All of us. Those with HIV and those without it. Help us be thankful for the days and the health you give us, and help us love redemptively and NOT judge pre-emptively. And above all, I ask You to magnify Yourself today on World AIDS day through Your church and Your people. May we reflect Your grace and demonstrate it far and wide. Today, and always. In the name of Your Son Jesus, Who was tortured and killed unjustly, Whose death offers redemption and life, Amen.

Thanks, Cecil, for all that you taught me. See you later. Can't wait for that next hug, bro!


Jim Williams said...

Thanks Mike...your words not only remind me but inspire me to try to be the best person I can, not just because I am a person living with HIV, but because I am simply a person.....Jim

Anonymous said...

heatolmThank you Mike for this so fitting eulogy to Cecil, my dear twin brother, and all those who have suffered and are suffering with HIV/AIDS. This is what he wanted, that what he endured would someday impact others for good and for eternity. I cried when I read it but am thankful for your kind words... Cecilia