The past year has witnessed growing public alarm over the spread of a new major epidemic. The disease is known as AIDS, which stands for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. First identified as a disease in the U.S. about 2 1/2 years ago, AIDS has been given its greatest public exposure in 1983. Several in-depth articles were published in such popular magazines asTime, Newsweek, and Reader’s Digest. Also the daily newspapers, radio, and television broadcasts frequently reported on the AIDS epidemic and those who have been affected by this new disease.
AIDS attacks its victims by crippling the body’s immune system, thus leaving the body defenseless against infection and certain cancers. So far, 76% of the victims in the U.S. have been active homosexual men. This group represents by far the highest risk group affected by the disease. Of the rest of the reported cases of AIDS, 16% are intravenous drug abusers, 5% are immigrants from Haiti, and 1% are hemophiliacs. Only 2% of the victims are not known to be members of one of these high risk groups.
AIDS has struck 2,868 people in the U.S. and killed 1,197 of them, according to end of the year statistics. The largest concentration of cases is in New York City, followed by San Francisco and Los Angeles. Secretary of Health and Human Services, Margaret Heckler, has said: “AIDS is our No. 1 health concern and the epidemic is our No. 1 priority.”
Up to this point both the cause and the cure for the disease remain unknown. To date, AIDS kills more than 75% of those who contract the disease in less than two years. Although the underlying cause of AIDS remains unknown, it is virtually certain that AIDS is transmitted sexually. Transmission requires intimate sexual contact, or contact with contaminated blood, which accounts for the occurrence of AIDS among hemophiliacs. Our government has allocated significant funds for research into the cause and cure of this new mystery disease. The director of the National Centers For Disease Control, Dr. James O. Mason, states that “. . . of the pressing problems that we need an immediate solution to, that (AIDS) is a number one problem.”
Public concern over AIDS has run high. Much fear and misunderstanding of the disease exist. AIDS is seen as a significant setback to the gay rights movement in the U.S. Fear of AIDS is even causing some homosexuals to make changes in their life-style.
There are obviously some judgments which we as Christians are called to make in connection with this latest aspect of the homosexual movement. There are also some lessons which we ourselves ought to learn.
How are we to view the AIDS epidemic? Is there, besides a physiological explanation of the cause of this disease, a biblical explanation?
In the light of the Word of God, I believe that the Christian must view AIDS as the revelation from heaven of the righteous wrath of God against those who have rejected Him and His laws. AIDS is, in the language of Romans 1:27, the “recompense of their error” which those who practice the sin of homosexuality receive in themselves. It is, as Romans 1:18 states, the “wrath of God” which is “revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness.”
One of the lessons which AIDS teaches us is the truth that already in this life God punishes the sinner. The wrath of God IS revealed, right now, in this life. The sinner cannot sin and get away with his sin, not even in this life. Sin has bitter consequences, bitter consequences in the body, mind, and soul of the impenitent sinner. When he goes on in his sin, God visits those consequences upon him. In a life of sin, there is not, there cannot be, and God will not let there be, peace and happiness. Apart from God and thankful obedience to God’s law, there is only misery and death.
But AIDS is not only the wrath of God visited upon the homosexual sinner personally, it is also the wrath of God visited against a nation which tolerates and legalizes the practice of this sin. Our nation stands exposed to the righteous wrath of God. In recent years our country has acceded to the gay rights movement and stricken from the criminal code laws which prohibited the practice of homosexuality. More and more this sin is practiced openly and unashamedly. Homosexuality is justified as an alternative life-style, with equal validity to traditional heterosexuality. The advances of the homosexual movement are in no small measure due to the increasing support given the movement by the churches. Large denominations of churches, as well as influential church leaders have done much to advance the homosexual cause. Churches, even Reformed churches, not only have begun to receive practicing homosexuals as members in good standing, but have even gone so far as to ordain them into the special offices in the church.
As a nation, the U.S. has given its approval to homosexuality. The wrath of God is therefore over us as a nation. AIDS is one manifestation of this wrath of God against our nation.
One other thing which the furor over AIDS ought to impress Christians with is the urgent calling that believing parents have to instruct and warn their children. If believing parents have been negligent in carrying out their calling, a thing like AIDS ought to warn them against their neglect. We must not be spiritual ostriches and hide our heads in the sand. Too often, this is the attitude taken by believing parents. Because of the obviously sensitive nature of these subjects, parents have too often failed to discuss openly and frankly with their young people the subject of sex. Too often, they have allowed their children to find out about sex from their friends, or worse yet, from the books and magazines produced by the world. An embarrassing subject like homosexuality is never discussed.
As believing parents, we must not take this approach. This is not the approach of Scripture. In clear, frank language the Scriptures speak on the subject of sex, and describe and warn against sexual sins. One has only to read the various laws in the Old Testament given by God, the Book of Proverbs, or the first chapter of the Epistle to the Romans to discover the truth of this. This must be our approach to our young people. We must discuss these things with them. And we must warn them against these sins which they too, on account of their sinful and depraved nature, are prone to fall into.
One thing that the AIDS epidemic impresses us with is the wrong of considering homosexuality an alternative life-style. More and more this is the position that is taken. Homosexuality is only an equal option, on a par with heterosexuality. Along with this goes the position that the homosexual cannot be blamed for his inclination to this sin. Homosexuality is considered to be not a matter of deliberate choice, but a matter of one’s make up, his genes and chromosomes, and therefore something he cannot help and for which he cannot be blamed. This is the position of certain churches which, although they condemn overt homosexuality, do not condemn the homosexual nature, the bent towards homosexuality.
The AIDS epidemic ought to impress people with the wrong of this position. Obviously, AIDS as a disease is different than the common cold or the flu. As a disease AIDS is to be categorized with such diseases as syphilis and gonorrhea, veneral diseases. The disease is to be connected with the practice of the homosexual sin itself. If homosexuality is a normal life-style, why AIDS? The disease itself indicates the wrong of thus regarding homosexuality.
This certainly is the teaching of the Bible. The Bible neither presents homosexuality as an alternative life-style, nor the homosexual as unaccountable for the bent of his nature, the passive victim of his physical and psychological makeup.
Romans 1 teaches that the homosexual actively and deliberately perverts his nature in the practice of his homosexuality. According to verse 26 they “change the natural use”; according to verse 27 men are active in “leaving the natural use of the woman” and in “working that which is unseemly.”
The plain proof of the homosexual’s responsibility, both for the bent of his nature and for his homosexual sins, is that God judges him for his nature and his sin. God is the One Who metes out “that recompense of their error which was meet” (Rom. 1:27). And this is without doubt the testimony of their own conscience: they stand exposed by their sins to the righteous wrath of a holy God. The God Who would not allow Sodom of old to go unpunished, will not allow them to go unpunished either.
Above all, the AIDS epidemic is a call to holiness of life. Being a warning against sin, it is a call to holiness of life. To use the language of the Heidelberg Catechism in its explanation of the seventh commandment, AIDS teaches us “That all uncleanness is accursed of God: and that therefore, we must with all our hearts detest the same, and live chastely and temperately, whether in holy wedlock, or in single life.” It reminds us that “since both our body and soul are temples of the Holy Ghost, He commands us to preserve them pure and holy.”
We are not our own to do with ourselves and with our lives as we please. The governing principle of the life of the Christian young person is not what feels good, what gives the most pleasure at the moment. But the Christian young person understands that he belongs to another, to the Lord Jesus Christ. Having been redeemed by His precious blood, he understands his calling to live to the praise of the glory of his Redeemer. Having been bought with a price, the price of the life and blood of the Son of God Himself, we must glorify God in our body and soul which are God’s. Exerting himself by the grace of God to be free of the sin of homosexuality, the child of God is also assured of being spared the terrible consequences which God visits upon this sin already in this life.