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Bible Book:
Joshua / Josua
Chapter: 24
Verse: 14 – 18
Text: Joshua 24:14-18

Introduction

Every human being’s life is a universe of choices: we choose our favorite food, clothes, people whom we become friends with, courses to attend according to what we want to be in the future, boyfriends or girlfriends on the basis of objective or subjective criteria, and so on.

This ability to choose ends into a big characteristic humans have: “freedom” defined by Imbamba (2003, p. 185) citing Mondin, as “the ability that man or woman has to choose doing or not a certain thing, to perform or not a certain action when all the conditions required to act are on place”. Humans had this ability from their creator since they were created.

Adam and Eve, when they were created, received clear instructions from God about what they should eat and not eat in the Garden of Eden, including the consequences that would come upon them if they disobeyed God’s command. Here’s the theological foundation that explains the emergence of sin in the world which lies precisely in this great value “freedom”. God, despite being the creator of the human being, offered two antagonistic options of life to him/her (obedience and disobedience) leaving him/her with the right to choose, based on the freedom carved in his/her ontological nature. Unfortunately, in the name of freedom, Adam and Eve chose the wrong path.

In our struggle against the HIV and AIDS pandemic, so often we are confronted with the dilemma of free choice: between risky behavior or risk-free one while preventing HIV; between risky behavior or risk-free one as a person living with HIV or AIDS; as policy maker between the most or least compatible policies to reduce the impact of HIV and AIDS, etc.

We intend to show in this article how our choices have huge implications in our fight against the pandemic of HIV and AIDS, based on the experience of Israel in the days of Joshua.

Text Analysis

The scenario portrayed in our basic text took place in a singular moment of Israel’s history. The people were already settled in the Promised Land and their leader, Joshua, was old and already foresaw his imminent death.

So he summoned an assembly at Shechem which was attended by the high leaders of the twelve tribes of the people of Israel, namely: the elders, leaders, judges and officers who came to the meeting on a massive scale. Joshua in his speech highlighted the milestones of divine intervention along the historical trajectory of Israel, especially the call of Abraham, the deliverance from slavery in Egypt, the Reed Sea crossing, the help of God during their wanderings in the desert, the Jordan River crossing and the occupation of the land. With all these details, Joshua sought to bring to the memory of the leaders present at the meeting, how God’s help benefited the people of Israel since the dawn of their history.

After Joshua traces this God centered historical retrospective, he reaches the climax of his speech with the following strong appeal: “… Honor the Lord and serve him sincerely and faithfully. Get rid of the gods which your ancestors used to worship in Mesopotamia and in Egypt and serve only the Lord” (cf. Joshua 24:14). It should be remembered that Israel had been shaped as people in Egypt, the most powerful country of that time and greatly affected by polytheism. Israel’s neighbors were not an exception. These sociological influences led some people to fall into the polytheistic practices as Joshua made it clear in the verse mentioned .

Joshua, as the people’s main leader, rose to cure this spiritual ill but he did not do it coercively. He could probably even do it this way, considering that he held the highest religious, judicial and political power at that time. However, Joshua acted in a democratic way, asking the people to choose whom they wanted to serve, either the true God or the false gods. He went further when he announced his choice determinately, whatever the people’s option would be : “As for my family and me, we will serve the Lord” (cf. Joshua 24:15b). Fortunately, in response to Joshua’s call and choice, the leaders attending the meeting stated the following: “… We would never leave the Lord to serve other gods … So we also will serve the Lord, he is our God” (cf. Joshua 24:16-18). With these words, the people chose God and not the false gods.

Implications of positive choices in responding to HIV and AIDS

The choices we make in life have a huge implication in the fight against HIV and AIDS. It is known that in Angola and other sub-Saharan countries HIV is most often spread by unprotected sexual relations. Yet many people continue to have multiple sexual partners, especially men who, influenced by our cultural polygamous tendency, find in this factor affirmation of their masculinity. On the other hand some women, moved by the extreme and distorted concept of feminism, use multiple partners as a way to be equal with men or for economic reasons. As one can see, these are often voluntary behavioral choices.

Still considering the spread of HIV through sexual contact, there are those who do not see themselves practising faithfulness and abstinence, basic mechanisms that the Church advocates for the prevention against HIV. They often practice casual sex with casual partners, also risking unsafe sex, choices that contribute to the emergence of new HIV cases in our Luanda city and others throughout the region.

Across our countries there are many people who know their HIV positive status, yet they practice unsafe sex, infecting those who interact sexually with them. These are deliberate choices of people of bad faith that, besides contributing to the increase of HIV cases, also put their own lives in danger. The possibility of reinfection may result in the increase of their viral load in a short time and consequently weaken the state of their health and even causing early death, which is avoidable if they make rational choices about there behavior.

It’s also worth noting that married couples living with the virus relate sexually with no care to prevent reinfection. In some cases, the husband do not accept using condom claiming that it reduces sexual pleasure. In this case they choose sexual pleasure instead of having a longer life. Some women in this situation are afraid to break the marital bond, because they lack the economic capacity to survive without the assistance of a spouse. Although one does not want to judge the rationality or not of these women’s choices, we must say that whatever their situation, their attitude is nevertheless a choice they make between health and economic survival.

The policy maker also faces the dilemma of choice. He/she has to choose the budget to allocate to various sectors of our countries: social, defense, etc. He/she has to choose the priorities to be established in the health sector itself, between the various existing health programs, etc. These choices can have an objective or subjective side. Surely thesituation in our countries, both the positive signs in the fight against HIV and the prevailing negative signs are partly the result of choices made by policy makers.

Conclusion

Rev. Otávio Fernandes (may God keep his memory!) in one of his homilies told the following story:

In a certain village lived an old man very famous for his wisdom. One day a young man decided to test his wisdom. He planned in his heart to take a dove hidden in the palm of his hand before the old man and ask him a whether the dove was dead or alive. If the old man replied that it was dead, he would release it alive, if he said the opposite, he would suffocate it to death. This event would undermine the old man’s wisdom and fame.

The young man thought this way and left to meet the old man. Once he met him, he asked him the question he planned. The old man looked out at him and responded, “the bird’s life is in your hand, if you want you can kill it or spare it”. With this wise reply, the young man was left completely disarmed intellectually.

The old man’s answer applies to all of us in our fight against HIV and AIDS. Our life is in our hands, based on the behavior we choose. Because of our high-risk behavior, we can infect others or reinfect ourselves and our legal partners; we can conform to the practice of unsafe sex even though it may be lawful; we can make policy choices that may impact positively or negatively on the lives of people living with HIV and AIDS, etc.

Our choices may be a factor in our victory or failure before a virus that is quite challenging.
Eduardo Sassa is a trained Churches, Channels of Hope facilitator working in Angola)

Author: Sassa EV (Ps)
Language: English

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