I visited an organization yesterday in Florida that helps and distributes aid to a cadre of local individuals, most of whom have HIV. Most of them have some sort of Christian background, and I did my best to field all sorts of questions about everything from weird offshoots of Buddhism to whether we should pray to Christ or God the Father. Because of organizations like this one, they are not forgotten.
But to mainstream society, they are forgotten. I left thinking of Jesus' words in Luke 5:32: "I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance." These are those that Christ came to earth for, I thought. He certainly died for everyone, but his earthly ministry was not directed at those who go to church. He did not come for those who keep the law. He did not come for the comfortable professor or legislator. He came for these.
This is the perspective of the gospels. The ironic parallel between the Pharisees of the gospels and the Christian climate right now is amazing. Let me contemporize. The Pharisees are worried over whether the immigrant's papers are legal. Jesus is helping a mugged immigrant by the road. The Pharisees rejoice in the justice of someone getting AIDS. Jesus is having dinner with them. The Congressmen are wanting Jesus to speak at their luncheon. He is giving bread to a homeless person on the street.
Got knows the hearts of those I spoke to yesterday. Some of them expressed their rejection by churches and Christians. Many of their heads are not what they might be, given years of drugs. I gave them my sense of things as a Wesleyan:
1. God looks on the heart. What direction are they moving in, and are they really trying to move toward him?
2. Don't hurt anyone. This is basically what it means to love our neighbor.
3. We try to understand God, the Bible, and the answers to life's biggest questions. But we will inevitably disagree on many things. We know God will do what is right, and we just have to trust him.