Encounters of Love.
I recently read a comic book called The Other Side by Jason Aaron. It tells a story of the Vietnam War through the eyes of two young men. One man is American and the other is Vietnamese, and the story shows how the two men train and go through the agonies of war. Eventually they encounter each other on the battlefield and only one man survives because this is an encounter which is rooted in war and hatred. It is a sad story of two young men who perhaps could have been friends if their encounter had taken place during peace time and if it had been and encounter of love.
Encountering people can be difficult when there are differences or when power at stake or indeed in times of conflict or war. It is also much harder to love people where there is conflict or misunderstanding. There is still much misunderstanding about HIV which then leads to stigma and discrimination. Some of this is rooted in judgement and the sense that a person must have done something to end up being HIV positive. Sometimes this judgement might not be voiced openly but it is there in the attitude a person may have when they encounter someone living with HIV.
We each have an opportunity to make sure that our own encounters are non-judgemental and that they rooted in peace and love instead of leading to division, hatred or death. In the reading Jesus calls us to encounter love because he commands us to love one another. 'This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.' Jesus calls us to love and as Christians this is something we are used to hearing but it isn't an easy call. It is very easy to love people if you like them, or if they are the same as you, perhaps the same gender or the same race or age.
Jesus through his words and actions shows us that real love calls us to go beyond ourselves. It calls us to look beyond our differences or our personal feelings and the judgements we make, and to focus on the needs of others. We can either be at war with one another, fueled by hatred or division, or we can be at peace and love one another.
If we are people who love then when people encounter us they will encounter love. Love leads to peace and flourishing. Putting love into practice will help us work towards an AIDS-free future.
To think about: In a world in which it is so easy to hate how can we then become people of love?
Written By: Reverend Ijeoma Ajibade: Honorary Minor Canon, Southwark Cathedral, London