By JoHannah Reardon [Taken from ChristianityToday.com]
We should treat them as we would like to be treated. Sound familiar?
My husband, Brad, met Norman when Brad spoke at an interfaith Easter service. Norman approached him and asked if he could talk. In a short time, Brad learned that Norman had been a practicing homosexual all his life and was now suffering from AIDS. In further conversations, Brad found out that Norman's mother was a Christian and had been praying that he would come to Christ before he died. He did.
Never was a man more radically changed. From the outset, Norman told Brad that he didn't know if he could change his orientation, but he knew he could change his behavior, and that he would from now on. My husband honored that and concentrated on helping him in that battle, which we all have, to control his sin nature.
Norman became a part of our family. He came to a Bible study in our home each week and sang the songs with the vigor of a man who knew he would soon be meeting the One he sang about. He soaked in Scripture as if it were his last drink of water before entering a long desert journey. Some people thought that we were foolish to have an advanced AIDS patient so near our young children, since at that time little was known about AIDS and fears were rampant. But the things our family learned through Norm's hunger and enthusiasm for God ended up being tremendous. Our kids saw his love for God's Word, his concern for other people, and his grace in the midst of suffering.
Toward the end, we mostly saw Norm at the hospital. When he died, we felt such great loss. What we would have missed if we hadn't known him! None of us had ever been around someone who had a fatal disease, which AIDS was at that time. We learned compassion for one who was slowly, painfully letting go of this life and preparing for the next. It helped us evaluate what was important to us as we saw him let go of all the trivial things in his life.
As Christians, we are commanded to love. That doesn't mean we excuse sinful behavior, but it does mean we listen, understand, and sacrifice our own comfort and preconceived ideas to represent Christ well. Through Norman and our relationship with him, I discovered the importance of listening before condemning and of offering the same grace that Christ shows me in spite of all my faults and foibles.
JoHannah Reardon is the managing editor of ChristianBibleStudies.com. She has written seven ficitonal books and a family devotional guide, and she blogs at www.johannahreardon.com.