Submitted by Visitor (not verified) on Mon, 07/12/2009 – 13:56
Bible Book: Hebrews / Hebreers
Chapter: 9
Verse: 11 – 14

Very often, we tell ourselves and others like us how bad, wrong, or dangerous someone is that is different from us. We put a mark on them, a sign, stigma, that says, “This person is unclean. Stay away”. For many people living with HIV, stigma is a reality. They are marked as unclean. Family and friends of a HIV+ person may be stigmatized. Even religious leaders and community workers striving to make a difference are sometimes stigmatized. They are marked as unclean. Even a young man or woman asking their partners that they use a condom in sexual intercourse is sometimes stigmatized. Sometimes it is the colour of your skin, you surname, your lifestyle that marks you.

Hebrews 9:11-14 is about uncleanness. In the time of the Old Testament, the blood and ashes of animals offered to Yahweh cleansed people. These cleansing rituals were performed repeatedly, because the mark, the stigma stayed. Now we are cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ. When He died on the cross, He cleansed us not only from our sin, but also from all stigmas attached to us by people. Christ restores us as people serving the living God.
Cleansing is not only a cultic reality. It does not play out only in worship meetings, through sacraments and other rituals. The blood of Christ not only takes away sin and death, but set us free to be a life-giving community. The question is not if you have been forgiven, but if you also help others to live, or if you leave them to be killed by the stigma and lovelessness of the community.
Stigma leads to denial and silence. This leads to people unknowingly being exposed to the virus. Stigma has the potential and power to kill. Through the blood of Christ, we are set free to serve the living God and to express our new freedom and cleanliness by protecting the life and reputation of others. Christ set us free to take up the struggle with, and for, all stigmatized people, in His name.
To think about or discuss: How can we address stigma through our words and actions?

Author: J Pieters (Ds)
Language: English

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