5 ways to honor our parents in the age of COVID-19

May 12, 2020

My dad spent Easter alone this year. Normally, he joins one of our families for church and brunch, but we had to adjust our plans to comply with Illinois’ stay-at-home order. One sister delivered an individual portion of ham and brussels sprouts to his doorstep, another dropped off his favorite marshmallow eggs, the grandkids colored and mailed pictures, and we all called or texted. Though we couldn’t physically be with him, we tried our best to love and honor him from a distance. 

Perhaps, like us, you find yourself asking what it looks like to honor our mothers and fathers—some of the most vulnerable among us right now—during the age of COVID-19. Though we’re dealing with a novel virus, God’s Word offers timeless truths to help us in whatever situations we may face.  

Following Christ’s example

Our Savior knows what it’s like to care for a parent from a distance. As he hung on the cross, Jesus honored his earthly mother by entrusting her care to his close friend and disciple, John (John 19:25-27). In a moment of deep personal agony, he looked outside of himself and considered his mother’s needs.

As Christians, we’re called to follow Christ’s example. Though it may seem difficult to care for our parents in the midst of our own loss and disappointment, the Holy Spirit helps us love and serve our neighbors as Christ loved and served us (Gal. 5:13-16). 

Caring from a distance 

So, for their good, how do we care for our parents from at least six feet apart? Here are five suggestions:

1. Encourage them to stay home: If your parents are 65 or older, the CDC classifies them as high risk and encourages them to stay home as much as possible. To help them stay safe, consider running important errands for your parents. If that’s not feasible, think of other ways to help meet their immediate needs. You might order their prescriptions for delivery, arrange a grocery service, or connect them with volunteers at a nearby church. 

2. Stay connected: Social distancing may leave our parents feeling sad and lonely. How might you stay better connected with them during this season? Maybe it’s just a matter of calling or emailing a little more regularly. Or perhaps it means helping them set up Zoom or Facetime so they can see your face. 

While we may not be able to draw near to our parents right now, we are always free to draw near to the throne of grace on their behalf.

If you have kids, try to help them stay connected too. The sweet relationship between grandparents and grandchildren is part of God’s good design for families, and it’s natural for both generations to grieve this temporary loss. They might not be able to physically visit right now, but be creative. Play “Nana Says” over FaceTime, do a weekly virtual storytime with Papa, have the kids recite a verse to Grandma, or color pictures and send them to Grandpa. Whatever you do, it’s sure to bring them joy. 

3. Be an advocate: This may be a good time to develop a care plan for your parents should they become ill. You might want to review medical histories, medication lists, and health directives with your parents as well. If you have a parent in a long-term care facility or nursing home, ask for regular health updates and see if there are ways you can support the caregivers who are standing in the gap for your family.

4. Offer hope: Bad news abounds these days. People are dying, politicians are sparring, and the economy is collapsing before our parents’ eyes. But in the midst of all the bad news, Christians have the best news. Jesus died for our sins and nothing—not even a global pandemic—can separate us from the love of God in Christ (Rom. 8:38-39). 

Offer your parents a different narrative than the one the world feeds them. If they’re already believers, talk about God’s faithfulness in your life. Encourage them with verses that speak of God’s steadfast love and mercy. Help them lift their eyes off of worthless things and onto Christ.

If they’re not yet believers, think about what your words and actions may communicate to them about Jesus. Do your parents hear you grumbling about your circumstances, or do they see you filled with joy and peace as you trust in the God of hope (Rom. 15:13)? Speak gracious words, be respectful, show compassion, and most of all, pray for opportunities to share the good news of Jesus  Christ. 

5. Pray: One of the best (and safest!) ways we can honor our parents is to pray for them. Not sure what to pray? Let Scripture be your guide. Praying God’s Word over our parents helps us align our prayers with God’s will and his heart. 

Psalm 71 is a great place to start. From this psalm, we might pray that our parents would find refuge in Christ alone (v. 3), that they would praise God and proclaim his mighty works (v.14-15), and that God would not forsake them in their old age (v.17-18). While we may not be able to draw near to our parents right now, we are always free to draw near to the throne of grace on their behalf. 

A command with a promise

The command to honor our parents isn’t an empty one. It comes with a promise “that it might go well with you” (Eph. 6:3). May the Lord bless you and your parents as you seek to please God by honoring them from afar. 

Chelsea Stanley

Chelsea Stanley is a child of God, wife, and mom of three young boys. She loves encouraging women with the truth of the gospel at her local church and online. Connect with her on Instagram. 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