Mercy, Compassion, and the 30th anniversary of AIDS

Recently, I heard this year was the 30th anniversary of the diagnosis of the AIDS virus. I couldn’t help but think of this 1982 exchange between White House reporter Les Kinsolving and Press Secretary Larry Speakes:

Kinsolving: Larry, does the president have any reaction to the [Center for Disease Control] announcement — that AIDS is now an epidemic and have over 600 cases?
Speakes: What’s AIDS?
Kinsolving: Over a third have died. It’s known as “gay plague.” (laughter can be heard) No, it is. I mean it’s a pretty serious thing that one in every three people that get this have died. And I wondered if the president is aware of it?
Speakes: I don’t have it. Do you? (more laughter)
Kinsolving: No, I don’t.
Speakes: You didn’t answer my question.
Kinsolving: Well, I just wondered, does the president—
Speakes: How do you know? (more laughter)
Kinsolving: In other words, the White House looks on this as a great joke?
Speakes: No, I don’t know anything about it, Lester.
Kinsolving: Does the president, does anybody in the White House know about this epidemic, Larry?
Speakes: I don’t think so. I don’t think there’s been any—
Kinsolving: Nobody knows?
Speakes: There has been no personal experience here, Lester.
Kinsolving: No, I mean, I thought you were keeping—
Speakes: I checked thoroughly with Dr. Ruge this morning, and he’s had no patients suffering from AIDS or whatever it is.

When I read that exchange, I can’t help but think of the way most Christians dealt with the onset of AIDS. Christians seemed at best nonchalant and at worst downright happy that possible “judgment” was coming down on the gay community.
Jonah was a prophet of God who was sent to a violent people and he preached God’s judgment. After he finished, Jonah 4:5 says he went outside the city, sat down, and waited to see what would happen. It is clear from the fourth chapter he was waiting for the cities destruction. He did not want God to be compassionate. He did not want God to show mercy. He wanted God to wipe them all out.
At the end of Jonah, God said, “Should I not care about the great city of Nineveh, which has more than 120,000 people who cannot distinguish between their right and their left, as well as many animals?”
The question hangs there for each of us. Shouldn’t God care about everyone? Even those who rebel against His standard?
Instead of callously judging others and anticipating their end, wouldn’t it be better to care about all people in the way Christ did? We do not have to accept how they live, but we certainly should not turn a blind eye and a dead heart to their suffering.


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