That’s what the newspaper headline screamed at us this morning.
Of course (as it was meant to) it raised the ire and started me wondering who this arrogant person was and what dubious ‘research’ gave rise to such a scandalous idea. Obviously some wretch looking for cheep publicity. Oh, how quickly we jump to protect Jesus from scandal. How foolishly we forget that Jesus was out there in the firing line long before we came along. He doesn’t need our protection. He wants us to follow him, to find him among the poor and the blind and the lame.
The headline was actually the title of a sermon by the Rev Xola Skosana of the Way of Life Church in Cape Town. He says, “In many parts of the Bible, God put himself in the position of the sick, the marginalised.” The sad thing is that his remarks angered Christians in the township in which he preached. But this pastor took his cue from Matthew 25 and said, “When we attend to those who are sick, we are attending to Him. When we ignore people who are sick, we are ignoring Him”.
Christians in the township accuse Skosana of portraying Jesus as sexually promiscuous by drawing a link between the son of God and HIV/AIDS. In spite of all we have heard, and all we know, we still presume ‘sexually promiscuous behaviour’ whenever we hear ‘HIV/AIDS’. And our judgemental attitude precedes any caring we might offer. But those who care for the sick and the marginalised put themselves at risk of infection every day. Jesus reached out and touched the untouchables of his day (the lepers) with concern only for their wellbeing and self-worth. We must assume that Jesus in South Africa today would be putting himself at risk of infection everywhere he went—not foolishly or wantonly but, when the need arose, he would care rather than conform, he would touch rather than retreat.
We hear of doctors and nurses and others on the frontline of caring for those infected by this fearsome disease receiving needle-stick injuries and coming into contact with bodily fluids. Jesus would, I think, be no different. He was not afraid to contract leprosy in first-century Palestine. We should expect that he would be equally unafraid of contracting HIV/ AIDS in 21st century Africa.
The township of Khayelitsha in which Skosana’s church is situated is as rife with HIV/AIDS as anywhere else in South Africa today (we hear of nearly 1,000 people dying daily here). It is sad that the people should reject his message with anger, not because he was talking down to them or that he’s an outsider (he has lost two sisters to AIDS) but because they want to protect Jesus from such scandals. The incarnation, however, is scandalous. It means that God isn’t waiting for us in heaven far removed from the realities of life and death. He has come to find us here and we will find him, grappling with poverty and dying of AIDS.
But then the message of the incarnate Jesus reaching out to the poor and marginalised has never gone down too well.