Exploring Jesus Ethics in the context of Zimbabwe society faced with the problem of HIV/AIDS
By Brian Maregedze
Explore the lessons that can be drawn from Jesus ethics and demonstrate how they can be
applied in a Zimbabwean society faced with problem of HIV and AIDS?
Ethics is part of religion which is naturally designed to assist humans with moral designation on
how they ought to live. Ethics refers to the systematic reflection on morality, a system of moral
values, which deals with wrong or right, and good or bad. There are various lessons which can be
drawn from Jesus ethics that can be applied in societies faced with the problem of HIV/AIDS.
These ethics can be categorized as ethics of continuity, discontinuity and apparent discontinuity.
They also contribute positively to the societies faced with the problem of HIV/AIDS such as
Zimbabwe and these ethical teachings helps in reducing the spread and effects of the pandemic. It
is also noted that the ethics of Jesus are found in his parables, sayings, miracles and teaching of
the Kingdom of God hence largely his ethics on adultery, divorce and love can be applied in
Zimbabwean society scourged with HIV/AIDS. The ethical teachings of Jesus are largely
demonstrated on the Sermon on the Mountain/Plain. However, some of the ethical teachings of
Jesus have nothing to do with the problem of HIV/AIDS in Zimbabwe.
It is of great importance to first provide a working definition of ethics. However, in the process of
providing a definition of ethics, it should be noted that ethics like religion is difficult to define
thereby there is no unanimity on the definition of ethics. Dobrin (2002:7), notes that ethics like
religion it is difficult to define with precision and for many of the reasons, it is an abstraction
whose content shifts with time and differs from place to place. Gripaldo (2002:11), defined ethics
as the study of what ought to be, a theoretical study of morality. It is derived from the Greek word
Ethos, which means simply means habits and customs. It can also be understood as the study of
human conduct or morality. By so saying, it simply means that we are studying Jesus’ reaction and
conduct towards his contemporaries. Jesus’ ethics were found in either of his teachings for instance
parables, sayings, miracles, and Sermons.
The ethics of discontinuity refer to instances when Jesus comes with a new paradigm shift
altogether from what was taught before in the Jewish tradition. In Mathew 5:38, Jesus says, “You
have heard that it was said, an eye for an eye and tooth for tooth but I say to you do not resist one
who is devil but if anyone strikes you on right cheek, turn to him the other also.” In light of the
above, Jesus brings in a new teaching from what was taught before in Jewish tradition. According
to Jesus’ ethics, revenge is not acceptable no matter what the situation is like and he advocates for
total forgiveness. This new teaching of Jesus can be applied in societies faced with the problem of
HIV/AIDS and the two lessons that can be drawn from this ethic, thus if a partner cheats in a
relationship, there is need for total forgiveness and not necessarily cheating also from the other
partner which can lead to the spread of HIV/AIDS and also when one is infected with HIV/AIDS
unknowingly, one must not be in a position of intentionally spreading the HIV/AIDS in to innocent
victims as form of revenge, in line with the old Jewish tradition of ‘an eye for an eye or tooth for
a tooth.’ Therefore, the lessons that can be drawn from this ethic is that those who cheat in
marriages and those who are unintentionally infected with HIV/AIDS should forgive the ones who
have infected them and prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS.
In the parable of prodigal son [Luke 15:11-32], according to Moule [1998:22], Jesus taught about
forgiveness. This parable teaches people that no one can forgive unless one sensitive enough to
suffer from the wrong that is forgiven. It is not just a matter of saying the words but an act that
comes from the heart. Taking into consideration people with HIV/AIDS in Zimbabwe the society
must be accepted and be treated the same way with those not affected regardless of their status.
Hence in so doing reducing the effects of the problems caused by this deadly pandemic in the
Zimbabwean society thereby Jesus’ ethical teachings are of great importance to the Zimbabwean
society which is scourged with HIV/AIDS.
In addition, Jesus’ ethics are applicable to the Zimbabwean society that is faced with the problem
of HIV/AIDS as they teach on morality and how a human being ought to live. According to
Chanaiwa (2003:1), the most notable form of transmission of HIV/AIDS is through sexual
transmission which in turn requires moral checking. This can be seen in Jesus teaching on adultery,
which clearly works towards ensuring a reduction to this deadly pandemic. In his ethics, Jesus
condemns extra marital affairs. According to Glen and Gushe (2014:290), sex should take place
in the context of faithfulness. More still, Wilstor (2011:8), further elaborates the issue of
faithfulness by arguing that the law of Christ tolerates no sexual indiscretion. In other words,
married people should be faithful to one another. In the Zimbabwean society faced with the
problem of HIV/AIDS, it requires a total end to adultery, and cheating on each other by married
couples if the negative effects of HIV and AIDS are to be minimised therefore, the lesson that can
be drawn from the ethics of Jesus is that, married couples must be refrain from cheating on one
another and seeking extra sexual relation other than in their marriages hence in so doing reducing
the effects of HIV/AIDS in a Zimbabwean society.
In the parable of Good Samaritan Jesus is against the issue of discrimination done by priest and
the Jews. This teaching is applicable in Zimbabwean society that they also need help and tolerance
and the society must not discriminate them. In Zimbabwean churches members used to
discriminate people with HIV/AIDS based preconceived judgement of their appearance, regard
them as unfaithful individuals. However, this is unfair treatment of people with HIV/AIDS in
Zimbabwe therefore Jesus ethics is applicable to a Zimbabwean society.
Furthermore, in his ethics Jesus condemns all forms of adultery. Thus looking at a woman which
draws sexual feeling to someone and thereby acting as a catalyst for sexual immorality hence
leading to the spread of the deadly HIV/AIDS. In his ethical teachings Jesus used the law and
Manson [1955; 299], notes that Jesus used the Jews laws for the moral demands which presuppose
a change of nature and dispossession in man. According to Caird [1995; 391], Jesus acknowledges
that actions of man are perpetrated by thought or feelings which are evil. On the Sermon on the
Mount [Mathew 5:28], Jesus says that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully had already
committed adultery in his heart. In light of HIV/AIDS Jesus is condemning the thoughts that can
lead someone to sexual immoral acts and acquire the disease. Therefore, the lesson that can be
drawn from this ethic is that people need not to be driven into sexual immorality by feelings that
arise by looking into a woman hence can lead to the spread of HIV/AIDS. Thereby being faithful
and sticking to one sexual partner can help in reducing the spread and effect of HIV/AIDS in a
In addition, Jesus in his ethics emphasized love as a golden rule hence his ethics are applicable in
the Zimbabwean society that is faced with the problem of HIV/AIDS as it requires the whole
society to love those who have been infected and the orphans whose parents have died of the
pandemic. Jesus taught about love in the sense that people must love one another. In a society
filled with love the orphans left by parents who died of HIV/AIDS would definitely be looked
after. In Zimbabwean Churches, members discriminate those who are HIV positive based on
preconceived judgement of their appearance. However, love will help put an end to the stigma and
discrimination of people living with HIV/AIDS hence virus has boundaries as everyone is prone
to infection if they are unfaithful and involved in unprotected sexual activities. Therefore, the
lesson that can be drawn from the ethics of Jesus is that of loving one another as the infected
people, orphans and those living with HIV/AIDS do need the love of society and no discrimination
hence in so doing, the Zimbabwean society faced with the problem of HIV/AIDS will ensure that
there is no more stigma and discrimination hence reducing the effects of HIV/AIDS.
In relation to the above, the ethics of Jesus emphasized loving one another which is the way to go
for societies like Zimbabwe that are faced with the problem of HIV/AIDS as it ends isolation of
those infected and affected by the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Villa (1994:74), notes that Jesus
demonstrated love through healing people on the Sabbath, hence this shows that Jesus had high
regard towards human life. In (Mathew 3:4), Jesus said that it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath
day to save life. In case of HIV/AIDS, it would imply showing love to those affected similar to
what Jesus did to the leapers who he cleansed from leprosy in (Luke 17:11-19). In this regard,
Jesus demonstrated love and how human life is important. Therefore, if these are to be considered
in the Zimbabwean society, the fight against HIV/AIDS will be made much easier hence the lesson
that can be drawn here is that of taking human life as being equally important and sacred will
reduce the ill treatment of those infected with HIV/AIDS and also ensure taking good care of them
as well as the orphans who are left because their parents died of HIV/AIDS.
Furthermore, all the teachings of Jesus help people to live morally upright lives which in turn
reduces the effects and upholds the fight against HIV/AIDS. In a Zimbabwean society that is faced
with this problem. Singer (1993:31), argues that the Beatitudes are ethical teachings of Jesus. For
instance, when Jesus said, in (Mathew 5:8), “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”
According to Chanaiwa (2003:52), Jesus moral teaching is descriptive and illustrative on how man
and women are to behave in the Kingdom of God and therefore everyone has to support its coming.
In light of HIV/AIDS, it suggests no sex before marriage and for married ones, it suggests sticking
to one partner and for the widowed to be right standing with their future and to be responsible. For Chanaiwa (2003:52), purity is in line with perfection and perfect life entails taking responsibility
for instance the use of condoms and even abstinence which prevents the spread of the disease.
Therefore, this clearly shows that the ethics of Jesus are applicable to the Zimbabwean society that
is faced with the problem of HIV/AIDS as the beatitudes emphasize on being pure which
However, it should be noted that not all the ethical teachings of Jesus are of importance to
Zimbabwean society faced with the problem of HIV/AIDS. Some of the teachings were just meant
for the time when Jesus lived and were related to the things which were taking place during that
time. There by it should be noted that the Zimbabwean government had made its own measures to
reduce the problem of HIV/AIDS. These measures include the use Anti retro viral and Prevention
of Mother to Child transmission (PMTCT) were pregnant mothers are given ARV while pregnant
so that they will not transmit the disease to the unborn baby. Also abstinence is lawful activity to
In conclusion, the ethics of Jesus are applicable in a Zimbabwe faced with the problem of
HIV/AIDS as they emphasized on moral uprightness which reduces the spread of HIV/AIDS. In
his teachings, Jesus taught about adultery which he condemned hence this encourages people to
refrain from extra marital affairs as well as abstinence from unprotected sexual relationships. In
his golden rule, Jesus taught about love, which is what the society needs in order tolerate and
encompass the HIV positive members and also helps to take good care of the orphans who are
falling victims of this deadly pandemic. Therefore, the ethics of Jesus can be applied in a
Zimbabwean society faced with the problem of HIV/AIDS.
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Author, historian & columnist