This is the tragic as well as inspiring story of an Indian Christian doctor whom I met recently at the breaking of bread meeting in one of the Bombay assemblies.
While operating on a patient in a Christian hospital in south India, Dr J, a cardiac surgeon, pricked his finger with a needle and became infected with HIV. HIV - the human immuno-deficiency virus - leads to Aids, which is the final state of people infected with HIV, for which there is no cure, and which ends in death. When it was confirmed he had this dread disease:
1. He was immediately dismissed from his post at the hospital and found himself without a job. There was no compensation offered, and as a Christian he felt unable to make a legal case against fellow believers.
2. His local church made it clear he was no longer welcome among them - they objected to his partaking of the emblems at the breaking of bread, and eating with them in their homes.
3. His wife, a Consultant doctor herself, also left him and took their small daughter with her! She left him in a particularly hurtful and shameful manner. He came home one evening to find his wife and child were gone; no farewell, no prior discussion, just without any warning he found himself alone - his family had deserted him. His wife left India and went to the UK where she practices today. He has had no contact with his little girl ever since; his wife is divorcing him and blocks all attempts at his speaking with his own daughter.
He has become a pariah in the very context one would have expected him to have been understood, loved, and protected: (a) a Christian institution, (b) a Christian church, (c) a Christian marriage and home.
This dear doctor is an accomplished surgeon, a most fluent speaker, and a humble and ardent man of God. Yet, innocent of any sin in this matter, he has been treated as though guilty, has been ostracised as completely as any leper was in the camp of Israel, and has suffered the loss of everything he held precious! And still he retains his faith in God, and seeks to serve Him as he is able in treating HIV/Aids patients and lecturing in special forums up and down the land.
For a while he went to the USA where his case was understood and accepted more readily than in his native India. However, while there he had a deep experience of God in which he felt the Lord was telling him to return to India! This was the hardest possible course for him to follow after his traumatic experience there already! But he bowed to Gods direction and came back to serve God as he was able, and, in the time left to him, in the very place where he had been rejected, and among those who had betrayed that fundamental Christian commandment to "love one another" (Jn 15.12).
One widely held attitude towards those with HIV/Aids who have been welcomed into the family of God through the "new birth" experience was articulated by a senior Indian evangelist. It was at a seminar for evangelists and elders held in one of Indias huge cities to discuss the problem of what to do with HIV positive converts to the Christian faith. This brother felt unless such converts were isolated and contained in a special assembly for HIV sufferers situated somewhere on the outskirts of the town, then assemblies would be divided and spiritual work seriously compromised. There was no room in his view for the display of Christian love, tolerance, and faith, which could welcome such a child of God into the fellowship of a local assembly and permit them the same privileges as believers not afflicted with this disease. They must be segregated and ghettoised in HIV/Aids communities apart from all others.
The calibre of this doctors faith and submission to the will and Word of God is witnessed as he explains that he could quite easily have married again. Several Christian sisters, without HIV/Aids themselves, were willing to marry him. However, he took the ground that though his wife divorces him he is still not free to marry again in any circumstances, since the Lord views him as still married to his first and only wife. He will retain the integrity of his marriage vows till the day he dies or the Lord returns.
In the course of this disease he will die soon as his immunity is at its lowest possible ebb - but still he serves the Lord in his quiet and earnest manner with the strength he is granted hour by hour. Every day he lives, every testimony he bears, every act of godly service he engages in, is both a challenge and a rebuke. It is an example and challenge for those of us who are well and have suffered the loss of very little in our Christian lives to be more zealous and committed in our dedication to Gods service: especially toward those whom society rejects, isolates, and makes outcasts of. It is a rebuke that we who are Christians should allow such a thing to happen, to tolerate such an attitude of selfishness and phobia, and to deny the commandment "which we (Christians) had from the beginning, that we love one another" (2 Jn v.5).