4 things I learned from prolonged sickness

February 4, 2020

I don’t like being broken. Who really does? I like having it all together, being prepared, never inconveniencing anyone. If we were going on a trip, I’d have everything prepped before you got there. The gas tank would already be filled even if it meant going out of the way in the middle of the night. The suitcase would be packed and loaded in the car. And of course, I’d have your favorite snacks for the trip regardless of how many stores I had to go to find them. 

Last year, in the midst of a new area, a new church, a new job, and while fostering new friendships, I experienced a long season of sickness. No one wants to be knocked off their feet for two months and isolated by feeling crummy, but in that season I had a great deal to learn.

Here are a few lessons I learned:

1. I’m not God, but I often want you to think I am. 

That’s an uncomfortable thought to share. But in saying it, I’m fighting intentionally against the desire to make much of myself. When I fail to confess that pride and fear of man, it’s ugly how far those thoughts can go. The longing to be seen as God can manifest itself in several ways: 

Sickness laid me low and exposed these sinful thoughts. The Great Physician knows exactly the means are needed to mend our souls, and he can use physical illness at times to produce spiritual health in us.

2. I need others.

Most of the time I’m okay with being dependent on God; I mean I have to be. I’m human; he’s not. But in my arrogance, I don’t want to be dependent on others. Biblically, though, we are dependent on one another. There’s no such thing as a solo believer. We are members of one another (Rom. 12:5) and are given our gifts to serve one another (1 Cor. 12:7). 

It’s pride that leads me to want to be self-sufficient and not accept the gifts others have been given in order to build up the body of Christ. Often in my independence and illusion of self-sufficiency, I’ve acted as an autoimmune disease in the body of Christ—fighting to work independently from the very parts I’m dependent upon.

Here are several ways I saw my need for others when I was ill:

3. I’m brought into relationship with others as I live as what I am—human. 

Sickness reminds us of the fall. I am sinful and broken. I’m often afraid that if I am not perfect in every way, people will turn from me and reject me. In reality, no one wants to be around someone who is perfect. To be human is to be needy and to not have it altogether. To be perfect is to be sterile, foreign, robotic, lacking in personality, and unapproachable.

I can rest because my status and worth doesn’t rest on me, but on the finished work of Christ.

In the last year, I’ve seen how these moments bring friendship and affinity. They allow people to see you and for you to see them. When that happens, friendship is furthered. I started working with a woman I had admired from a distance for a long time, and I was intimidated. When we ended up riding to a staff lunch together, she confessed her car was a disaster and scrambled to clean it. She sprayed perfume in it, and then panicked thinking I might be allergic to perfume. When that happened, she became not a person on a pedestal, but a friend.

I wrongly thought if I couldn’t manage relationships and keep people happy, I would lose them. Instead, through illness I have experienced profound community in the church despite being new to the area and having a season of sickness that didn’t allow me to be everything to everyone. I didn’t have to perform to be a part.

4. I don’t have to produce to be worth something. 

Being sick and unable to do what I was used to doing revealed that I thought I had to contribute or do something to be worth something. Work is a good thing that God created for us to participate in, but I’m not more accepted or worthwhile because of it. I wasn’t necessarily trying to earn my salvation, but in my mind, my identity and worth hinged on my contribution. The gospel had freed me from having to perform, but I continued to run until exhausted. I had to become sick and physically unable do things to assess my pace and motivation for work when I was healthy. 

That led me to reflect on the gospel and delight in the truth that I have nothing to earn and nothing to prove. I can rest because my status and worth doesn’t rest on me, but on the finished work of Christ. Now that I have fully recovered and and am back to work, I hope it is with just as much diligence, but less striving. My work should be done out of the rest I have in Christ and his statement, “It is finished.”

Sickness exists because of the fall, but it was used by God in the process of sanctifying me. Sickness revealed my humanity in ways I didn’t enjoy, but it also reminded me of important truths that have allowed me to rest, to work, to admit limitations, and to enjoy community more. 

Jenn Kintner

Jenn Kintner is the associate dean of academic affairs at Gulf Theological Seminary. Read More

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24