Texts: Romans 10, 11
Both of her parents died of HIV. She was only 13 years old and sent to live with her uncle and aunt in a remote village in Northeast India. But they didn’t want her. Though they took custody of their niece, they felt she was a burden since they had two children of their own.
One day the girl became sick and was taken to the hospital. Tests revealed that she was HIV-infected. The tiny bit of help she received from her father’s sister and her husband disappeared. They sent her to an orphanage for HIV-infected children and asked that she not visit in their home during the holidays for fear she would infect their two children. This sad story of rejection happens all too often.
December 1, 2017 was World AIDS Day. Many organizations have worked to educate the public to show compassion for those who are HIV-infected, especially innocent children. Fortunately, the 13-year-old girl is getting excellent treatment at the orphanage in India, but she still suffers from the pain of losing her parents and being rejected by relatives.
An online article that tells of the 13-year-old girl explains, “The trauma of rejection by families initiates destructive behavior in children, especially in their adult lives, when they interact with people. Next to treatment, the biggest problem faced by persons with HIV/AIDS is the fear people have of being infected by them. They also shun them at every level – in personal and family relationships, and when it comes to employment opportunities.”1
This girl’s story reminds us of the “acceptance” and “rejection” theme found in this week’s Sabbath school lesson. In the “Jew vs. Gentile” debate taking place in the church at Rome, Paul unabashedly proclaims that God loves all humanity and wants everyone to be saved. The lesson explains, “There is no corporate rejection of anyone for salvation.” For “there is no distinction between Jew and Greek” (Romans 10:12, NKJV).
If a distinction were to be made between those who are saved and those who are lost, it has nothing to do with race, gender, social status, health status, or nationality. Salvation is free to all, but is not accepted by all. Those who turn from God’s free grace will not inherit the kingdom of heaven. We are most confused over identifying the saved because we naturally observe outward behavior without always knowing the motives of the heart.
Those who appear to be most religious may in fact be furthest from the kingdom because they are seeking to confirm their salvation through their own status and efforts. But whether you are Jew or Gentile, male or female, born in Siberia or Cincinnati, HIV-infected or not, your assurance of salvation only comes through the gracious gift of Jesus Christ.