Question: "How should a Christian respond to contracting a sexually transmitted disease (STD)?"
Answer: Since the fall of man in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:17; Romans 5:12), sin has created heartache and suffering for human beings. Disease, including sexually transmitted diseases, is one of the consequences of sin. A sexually transmitted disease (STD) is not a worse disease than any other. But the circumstances that led to contracting the disease determine how a person must deal with it.
Not all sexually transmitted diseases are contracted through sin. Many innocent marriage partners have discovered the tragedy that their spouse has been unfaithful only when a doctor diagnoses them with a disease. When a Christian contracts an STD from a spouse, the sense of betrayal runs deep. Not only must the adultery be confronted, but the innocent party has been inflicted with a preventable disease through no fault of his or her own. Grief, rage, hurt, and sadness are all reasonable reactions upon discovering such a breach of trust. While medical care needs to be part of the physical healing, working through these issues with a competent biblical counselor can also help. Forgiveness is crucial whether the marriage survives or not. Forgiving those who have wronged us frees us to move on with the life God has planned for us (2 Corinthians 2:10-11).
However, many times the sexually transmitted disease is contracted through sexual immorality of one’s own choosing. While Scripture is clear that any sexual behavior outside the boundaries of a one-man, one-woman marriage is sin (1 Thessalonians 4:3; Colossians 3:5; Hebrews 13:4), Christians still cross the line and sometimes find themselves reaping the consequences of that sin. Galatians 6:7 says, “Don’t be deceived: God is not mocked. For whatever a man sows he will also reap.” When we flirt with sin, we are deceived by thinking it won’t harm us. An STD is one way sexual sin can harm us (1 Corinthians 6:18).
Sin separates us from the fellowship of God. Committing a sin does not remove us from the family of God, but it hinders us from enjoying the full blessing of fellowship with Him. First John 1:9 applies to contracting an STD, just as it does for every other sin believers commit. Contracting the disease is not the sin; sexual immorality is the sin. Many times we think the sin is worse if disease or pregnancy results, but that is not true. The consequences may seem worse, but the sin is just as evil to God whether or not we experience any physical consequences.
Repentance is the first step we should take when brought face to face with our own sin. Repentance means we change our minds about our sin; confession means we agree with God about our sin. We have a total change of thinking that results in a change of direction. When we see our sin as God does, we want to turn from it. Many times only severe consequences will wake us up and cause us to change. Unfortunately, even after repentance and a change of lifestyle, the consequences of sin often remain—grim reminders of the choices of our past.
Rather than allow Satan to use an STD to mock and condemn, a Christian can choose to accept the disease as a symbol of the grace of God. Every time the symptoms manifest, a repentant Christian can use the occasion to remember how much Jesus did to make us righteous when we are so unrighteous (2 Corinthians 5:21). A Christian with an STD can embrace the truth of Romans 8:1 and thank God for His mercy and forgiveness. Living victoriously requires that we adopt the attitude of Joseph when confronted with his evil brothers (Genesis 37:23–28). He could have wallowed in the past and held on to bitterness and regret. Instead he said, “What you intended for evil, God intended for good” (Genesis 50:20).
God promises to make everything work together for good when we love Him and seek His purpose for our lives (Romans 8:28). As painful and humiliating as a sexually transmitted disease can be, a victorious Christian trusts that God will make even something bad into good as he or she surrenders to His plan. An STD is a continual reminder of the wages of sin (Romans 6:23) and also of the greatness of God’s restoring power (Romans 5:20). It is a source of humility, which is always pleasing to God (James 4:6). An STD also can be a powerful deterrent to others’ sin as part of a testimony. Ultimately, the outcome of any life event rests greatly on our response to it. We can allow it to define us and hinder us, or we can let God transform it into a tool He uses to make us more like Christ.