Suzanne's Second Estate

A web log of my thoughts, activities, life....

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Unconventional Mercy

My friend Hunter brought up an interesting point regarding my previous post on compassion. He states:

I agree that Christians should "lead the way" when it comes to mercy missions but I don't see it as a wise use of time to refocus efforts in the US on HIV/AIDS patients. True, thousands of people are diagnosed with this disease every year but for thousands of years people have been diagnosed and died from various cancers such as leukemia. Where is the cry to take care of these people? Where are the ribbon walks and vast amounts of TV coverage for these diseases?

Personally, I find it hard to have compassion on Americans who contract a disease that is 99% preventable. That's not to say that I don't -- but I'd rather focus my efforts on those who don't know why they are suffering from the diseases they do.

While I appreciate Hunter's observation that there are many sick people who deserve compassion, I still understand Kay Warren's calling. She focuses on those with AIDS because they live, and die, with a stigma. AIDS sufferers often are not given the same compassion by society as those who contract unpreventable diseases.

This makes me take a serious look at this you-deserve-what-you-got attitude Christians are tempted to have when it comes to mercy. While people with leukemia and cancer (400,000 Americans die of smoking-related cancer each year — also preventable — while only 20,000 die of AIDS) clearly deserve the same compassion Christ calls us to extend to all suffering people, who are we to decide which illnesses are deserving of compassion and which are not? Many people who develop cancer are dying in their sins as much as those who contract AIDS through a homosexual relationship or unprotected sex.

What is our calling then? Does faith in Christ demand that we extend love and mercy to all sick people or only to those who seemingly did not "earn" their disease? I suspect the former. In Jesus' time, He healed many people who society was convinced had earned their disease. A perfect example is found in John 9:30-36, where Jesus heals the blind man. When the blind man testifies to the miracle Christ has done, the people respond in judgment:

Blind man: “Now that is remarkable! You don’t know where he comes from, yet he opened my eyes.

People: "We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly man who does his will. Nobody has ever heard of opening the eyes of a man born blind."

Blind man: "If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.”

People: “You were steeped in sin at birth; how dare you lecture us!”

And they threw him out. Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, and when he found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”

Blind man: “Who is he, sir?” the man asked. “Tell me so that I may believe in him.”

Clearly, the people's judgment was a little off. In fact, they overlooked a person who was sincerely seeking to know God. When we extend mercy and compassion to all hurting people, as Jesus did, we avoid making the wrong call.


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