Evaluating our hearts for signs of bigotry

February 22, 2017

Jesus said that what comes out of our hearts defiles us (Mark 7:21-23), and bigotry is a harmful example of this defilement. The challenge and problem is that we tend to view bigotry from a behavioral perspective, but it goes beyond vulgar language or violence. A behavioral approach could promote proper behavior but fails to realize that our behavior is a reflection of our hearts.

As Christians, we need a biblical view of problems and responses. While external sins are more obvious in nature, God looks at our hearts. The following suggestions, while not a comprehensive answer, are meant to help you evaluate your heart for signs of bigotry.

Do I have a personal bias? The terms “racist” or “bigot” might sound more appropriate for people who are extreme in their views, language or behavior, but any form of bigotry starts with a personal bias unchecked. Ask yourself, “Do I struggle to be kind to people because of their ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic status, height, weight, education or sexual orientation?” When we’re less likely to respect or listen carefully to someone because of our preconceived notions, we should pause and take notice.

Am I growing in love for God? The remedy for hating others is not loving them more or even being nice to them, but loving God more. Loving others is a good desire and goal, but it’s inadequate to motivate us on a consistent basis. People will fail and hurt us. We need to know God more, because he is love, and it’s difficult to practice what we don’t know.

Am I seeking others’ interests? The biblical concept of love is less about rosy feelings and more about seeking the best interests of others. Thus, bigotry is the opposite of love. It’s self-seeking, while love is others-oriented, rooted in our love for God. In fact, the greatest commandments are to love God with our whole being and to love others as ourselves (Matt. 22:37-39).

Loving others is possible even when our feelings don’t follow, because love isn’t dictated by our feelings. This thought contradicts our human nature and is difficult and unappealing in our own strength and will. But by God’s grace, we can love people who are different than us, offend us, hurt us or seem unlovable. Who do you struggle to love as yourself?

Do I see all people as beings created in God’s image? Ask God to help you. This spiritual perspective puts our external or internal differences into context. Rather than seeing a person solely in terms of skin color, we see a person who has been created in God’s image, whose worthiness of respect isn’t defined by superficial qualities or views.

Am I spending time with people different than me? I used to teach a group of college students and adult learners that consisted of mixed racial and socioeconomic backgrounds. As a non-white, non-black female, it would have been easy to focus on our differences, but it was evident that our deepest needs and struggles transcended ethnic or any other divisions.

We talked about ethnocentrism, unconscious bias and more, but those issues were not “the” problems or explanations for what we were witnessing in neighborhoods or reading in the news. Spending time with each other was a powerful way of challenging our assumptions and learning about one other.

Am I allowing past experiences to form my assumptions? Negative experiences might have shaped our perception of certain people, but we cannot blame our past for our biased views. It’s easier to generalize a group of people based on their external similarities, but each person is unique. Try to understand them by asking questions and listening carefully.

Is my spirit hypocritical? Bigotry is a form of hypocrisy that can’t be hidden from God. It is often reflected in a critical spirit (Matt. 7:1-5). God doesn’t forbid judging others for sin, but we must take the log out of our own eyes before we can see clearly the fault of others. We need to uphold God’s criteria of godliness in judging people, instead of our standards, views or experiences.

A helpful exercise is writing down our reasons for not liking someone. Then, compare them to God’s perspective in his Word. If our judgment is based on that person’s sin, then we should speak the truth in love—not because we’re better but because biblical love compels us to do our part and leave the outcome to God’s control.

Am I meditating on God’s Word and praying? Our love for others displays our obedience to God and the work of his Spirit in our lives (Gal. 5:22). The more we dwell on God’s thoughts and depend on the Spirit for change, the less likely we’ll be controlled by our sinful thoughts, emotions and desires. Ask God to search your heart, and thank him for revealing sin.

The solution to our guilt is genuine repentance, not more works. If we have sinned against someone in words or deeds, then we need to confess our sins to God and to that person. For those of us who tend to dwell on mistakes, sins or regrets, we can find peace by remembering God’s forgiveness for those who seek it. God loves us and desires our best, even when he convicts us of our sins.

Do I have accountability? Ask people to help you. The heart is deceitful. Even when we think we’re doing well spiritually, we’re still blinded to our weaknesses and sin. We need people who fear God more than our opinions. Real accountability involves tough questions that could be uncomfortable to discuss, yet are welcomed because we know they’re asked with the right motives.

Bigotry weakens our testimony for Christ and the unity of the church. As we grow in our knowledge of God, our goal should be a heart change that sees people through God’s eyes and cares more about his kingdom, rather than outward appearances of being nice, politically correct or religiously clean. This isn’t possible with man. But with our great God who has entrusted us with an unifying message of hope, all things are possible.

This originally ran in the Winter 2016 issue of Light Magazine.

Lilly Park

Lilly teaches courses related to biblical counseling and women’s issues at various Christian colleges and seminaries. At College Park Church, she serves as a counselor and counseling mentor. She is the book review editor for The Journal of Discipleship and Family Ministry and is a member of the ACBC. She holds … 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