Friday, October 3, 2008

Street Level Devotions, Jesus, Aids, And Mental Illness

Luke 5:12-15
Jesus came to a town where there was a man who had leprosy. When the man saw Jesus, he knelt down to the ground in front of Jesus and begged, "Lord, you have the power to make me well, if only you wanted to." Jesus put his hand on him and said, "I want to! Now you are well." At once the man's leprosy disappeared. Jesus told him, "Don't tell anyone about this, but go and show yourself to the priest. Offer a gift to the priest, just as Moses commanded, and everyone will know that you have been healed." News about Jesus kept spreading. Large crowds came to listen to him teach and to be healed of their diseases.

I often wonder, how would Jesus have responded to people with HIV or Aids in the Bible? I wonder because when I see the actions and hear the words of some Christians I wonder if Jesus would love them or condemn them. There is unfortunately the perception that people who are infected with HIV or Aids are victims of their own actions. Unfortunately, this is a lacking response that shows no clear understanding to these diseases. While much of HIV and Aids is a result of behavior, not all is. I ask the question though, so what if it was all a part of behavior, would Jesus show any less mercy? Would he show any less love?

Another disease often misunderstood by Christians is Mental Illness. I hate to say this, but I have seen people die because some Christian preached God’s healing to people with Mental Illness and some of those people came off of their medication, went into a psychotic state, and ended up committing suicide. I have to tell you, I struggle with Christians who preach these kinds of messages without understanding the potential consequences of their actions as they seem to not care about the consequences of their actions.

There was a time when HIV and Aids as well as Mental Illness were a death sentence. I am grateful this seems to no longer be the case. God has given the wisdom to create medications that make a difference, if only the poorest of the poor could afford those life saving, life changing medications.

To me, the bottom line is Jesus cared for, showed love to, society’s most undesirable people. During the time of Jesus, none were condemned, and separated from society as much as those with leprosy. Despite the rejection of this population, Jesus went out of his way to not only express love, but to touch and show love, even though this was taboo behavior.

I challenge, people who say they love and follow Jesus need to express the same type of love. Are we willing to get to know a person with mental illness? Are we willing to love a person with Aids? Are we willing to give a hug to either of these two groups or others that we may not fully understand? Are we willing to practice the actions of Jesus as opposed to being offended by the societal prejudices that exist?

One of the things that being a follower of Jesus requires, is that we follow and listen not just to his words, but also Jesus’ actions. May God help us to see those opportunities as we come into contact with the very people Jesus still loves.

Thought for the day: Telling people that you love them don’t mean nearly as much as showing them that you love them. When you pray, thank God for the physicians and researchers that is developing better medications to treat life threatening illnesses.

The following is a wonderful visual video put together by a person with bi-polar, a form of mental illness. The song is Ave Maria. Watch it, think about how you can love a person with either mental illness, HIV/Aids, or some other reason for them to be considered among The Lost, The Last, and The Least. Then be, and do as Jesus would, love. Just double click on the video below to watch. If the video don't appear, click on the link:

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