Unlikely Activists

Shepherd Smith is a Christian AIDS activist. To many people that sounds like an oxymoron. The phrase AIDS activist conjures up images of angry homosexuals demanding social acceptance of the gay lifestyle. Shepherd Smith, however, founder of Americans for a Sound AIDS/HIV Policy, does not fit the image. As a matter of fact, writer Elinor Burkett calls Smith “the nation’s most unlikely AIDS activist” because he is straight—that is, he is not a homosexual. He’s also a born-again Christian and a former prisoner who worked for a time with our ministry here at Prison Fellowship. Burkett, along with most gay activists, assumes that because Christians oppose the practice of homosexuality they have no sympathy for victims of what they view as an immoral lifestyle. At least that’s the claim of the homosexual lobby. But in reality Christians should be the most likely AIDS activists of all—because we are commanded to reach out to suffering sinners even as we condemn the sin. Singer Steve Camp, founder of an AIDS ministry, confesses that for a long time his idea of compassion did not extend to homosexuals. He says, “I had to learn that there is level ground around the cross—we are all guilty and except for the grace of God we all deserve hell.” In other words, Christians are not excused from compassion even though the dying person is paying the price of his sin—because the fact is we are all sinners. As Shepherd Smith points out, Christians often have a double standard when it comes to sexual immorality. Heterosexual sins like adultery are somehow considered less sinful and easier for Christians and churches to forgive than is homosexuality. But in God’s eyes all sin is repugnant. And before we single out homosexuals, we must remember that AIDS is not exclusively a homosexual disease. Anyone who engages in sex outside of monogamous marriage risks contracting the disease. In fact, right now, according to the Chattanooga Times, AIDS is the third-leading cause of death among women aged 25-44. Christians need to respond to the AIDS epidemic by doing what the apostle Paul calls “speaking the truth in love.” Calling people to a biblical lifestyle of sexual purity is an integral part of Smith’s ministry. He writes: “Individuals who observe chastity until marriage are virtually immune to sexually transmitted HIV infection. The family stops the disease by keeping it out.” But what about those already afflicted? There is much that Christians can do to demonstrate compassion toward people suffering with AIDS. Smith suggests that Christians consider getting involved in a local AIDS ministry. AIDS patients have needs that do not require specialized training—such as meal delivery, taxi service, and baby-sitting. When AIDS sufferers watch Christians demonstrate love, they will be more ready to listen to the truth of the gospel. I hope you’ll share this series with your friends and neighbors. Tell them how people like Shepherd Smith are disproving the belief that Christians don’t care about people with AIDS. It’s a biblical activism that Christians are called to—bringing good news to sinners as it was brought to us. “Speaking the truth in love” to those in need.


Chuck Colson


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