Hurricane Harvey and the Golden Rule: Putting Jesus’ words into action

September 22, 2017

Discipleship with the Suffering Servant changes the way we live during a disaster. When hurricane Harvey pummeled the greater Houston area, the Church of the risen Lord Jesus responded in ways I’ve never seen. I don’t just mean in the tonnage of relief supplies and sweat dropped during the recovery efforts. I’m talking about unity.

Churches are working across denominational lines to help Houston recover. Our little church alone has worked with Methodists, Bible Churches, Non-Denominational, Anglican, and more. Disaster didn’t divide the churches in Houston—it united us. And just this past weekend, our church hosted teams from churches in Austin and Commerce, Texas, and another team that drove from Phoenix, Arizona to help us mud-out and demo flood-hit homes in Houston. Why? Why did we bear the burdens of our neighbors? Why are Christians acting this way? Jesus and his so-called Golden Rule.

“Whatever you want others to do for you, do also the same for them, for this is the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12).

The urgency of the Golden Rule

Disaster didn’t divide the churches in Houston—it united us.

There are certain ethical situations which are often difficult to navigate, taking time, serious thought, counsel, and research. The answer to other situations is simple. If Jesus is my Lord, then the Golden Rule isn’t just décor for Sunday School rooms.

The Golden Rule strapped a life vest on me and put me on a rescue boat. As the rain kept pouring, and pouring, and pouring, I looked out my window and saw my street draining smoothly. But I started to hear of streets swelling with water. Ten minutes from my house, people were trapped. Single moms were in danger. The elderly needed immediate help. I couldn’t stay home and watch Netflix anymore.

The words of the Lord Jesus wouldn’t let me kick my feet up while I heard that my neighbors were in need. I knew, by faith, something had to be done. A friend at church texted and said he found a boat, told me to meet him at a makeshift rescue and dispatch station. By faith, I was ready.

Our boat cruised over a four-lane road, covered in five feet of water. We went over mailboxes, cars, and docked our boat at the first address we were given. I hoped it was the right address. I couldn’t see the numbers. Terry and his wife were trapped upstairs with three feet of water in their home. And the waters kept rising. Terry, in his 60s, is paralyzed from the waist down and has limited use of his arms. We put him in his wheelchair, carried him downstairs, and hoisted him up into the boat, along with his wife and their dogs.

If I were paralyzed and trapped upstairs of my flooding home, I’d want someone to rescue me. Sure, it was a little dangerous. But it would have been more dangerous to ignore my neighbor and walk on the non-flooded side of the street. Discipleship is always dangerous to self.

The simplicity of the Golden Rule

The Golden Rule, and the ethics of loving thy neighbor as thyself, is not complicated. What would you want done for you? Our Lord says, “Do that for them.”

If my home had six feet of water in it, destroying nearly everything hit by the polluted waters—photo albums, clothes, children’s soccer cleats—would I want to mud-out my home by myself? Never. I would want—need!—others to help empty my garage, rip out sheetrock, and carry scraps of water-logged carpet to the curb. Jesus tells me what I should do. “Whatever you’d want done for you, do it for them.”

No ethics committee needs to be organized for these moments. It’s simple—and supernatural. The Golden Rule is so simple, and monumental, that it can be described in a single sentence—and yet, it can summarize the Law and Prophets. It is the aroma of faith in the reigning Nazarene.

Don’t sleep on the Golden Rule. It might toss you onto a rescue boat. Jesus’s words may cause you to pick up a hammer, become an amateur dispatcher, or even make gallons of gumbo for a shelter. The Golden Rule may even cause you to slow down and listen to what someone else is going through. These famous words from Jesus may even lead you to unite with another church down the street.

What would change in your life today as you live by faith in your crucified and risen Lord? How would the do of the Golden Rule move you if you listened Jesus? Rescue boats, demo crews, and donations for disaster relief come and go. Neighbors do not. Opportunities to live by faith are ripe everywhere. Pick them.

The Man of Sorrows was acquainted with our grief. He loved us in the depths of our personal disaster. He motivates us to enter into the sorrow of others, helping us point them to a refuge and help above the clouds, beyond the horizon.

When we got Terry to dry land, we put him in a truck, loaded up his things, and I told him one thing. It all happened so fast, I could only think of one thing to say as our eyes locked: “The Lord Jesus be with you.”

That’s what I needed to hear too.

Jeff Medders

J.A. Medders is the lead pastor of Redeemer Church in Tomball, Texas, where he lives with his wife Natalie and their two kids. He is the author of Gospel Formed and blogs at jamedders.com. 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