Michael Brown is your neighbor

August 14, 2014

It’s hard not to weep as I watch the continual coverage of events unfold in Ferguson, Mo. Once again, a life was taken by an authority figure. The eyes of our nation turn in one of two directions: toward the injustice or away from it. In the ocean of social media, I’ve noticed waves of Palestinians providing American citizens with counsel on dealing with tear gas while droves of Protestants remain serene and silent.

It’s in these exact moments, when ethnic minority evangelicals are looking for support from other minorities and majority culture brothers and sisters, that we need to come together and minister to the hurting souls in our community. But we often find that many of our brothers and sisters are sitting on the sidelines paralyzed by the fear of not knowing how to engage.

I want to unveil to those saints on the sideline how they can engage in front line participation before, during and after national moments of social injustice arise. The reason why we, as the Body of Christ, must engage is because acts of social injustice are direct attacks on the gospel.

Personal justification is wrong

Luke 10:25-37 is a passage that speaks directly to issues of social injustice and how God expects his children to respond. In this text, a lawyer approached Jesus with a question regarding how one inherits eternal life. Jesus asked the lawyer to provide his interpretation of the law. The lawyer complied, and Jesus informed him to live out the two summary realities of the law: Love God holistically and love your neighbor as yourself.

The lawyer’s follow-up question, “Who is my neighbor?” was one of personal-justification because he sought Jesus’ affirmation of his already-proven love for his neighbor. Being omniscient, Jesus knew the lawyer’s interpretation of neighbor was in sync with the religious community of his day. Neighbor was defined as those who were Jewish and a part of the local religious community. This narrow definition excluded Samaritans and Gentiles.

Jesus masterfully interjects the story of the Good Samaritan and asked the lawyer which of the three responses proved to be neighborly. The lawyer responded, “The one who showed mercy.” Jesus told him to “go and do the same.”

We must personify reconciliation

Jesus’ response rings just as true today as it did during the first century. It seems as if many in the Church are selective in identifying who our neighbor is. With ease, we employ our definition of neighbor as Christians who look and believe like we do, all the while neglecting those differing from us denominationally, ethnically, economically and religiously.

The reasonable response the Church must offer the world today is one that reflects ongoing gospel-centered reconciliation. I believe we will achieve this when local churches implement the following five principles:

1. Remember the greatest act of social injustice is the means to reconciliation.

The crucifixion of Jesus was and is the greatest act of social injustice humanity will ever see. Yet, Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection were all necessary for sinners from all ethnicities to have equal opportunity to be lavished with forgiveness and redemption (Eph. 1:7). Embracing the work of Jesus allows sinners from every walk of life, who are separated from God, to be reconciled to him in a right relationship through Christ (2 Cor. 5:17).  

2. Realize the gospel turns conversations from “us and them” to “we.”

The Bible teaches that every human being, regardless of culture or ethnicity, is an equal image-bearer of God (Gen. 1:27-28). Paul added in Acts 17:26 that there is one race–the human race–that traces its lineage back to one man, Adam, from whom we all equally inherited our sin nature (Rom. 5:12). The gospel message places all of humanity on an equal plain; we’re all fallen (Rom. 3:23), we’re in need of a Savior, and Jesus is the only qualified Savior (John 14:6). Sin shows no segregation regarding ethnicity and neither should the stewards of God’s gospel message (Gal. 3:28).

3. Render holistic investment in communities.

After the TV cameras pull out and the trending hashtags are replaced, our cities need churches to remain actively involved in the arenas of community life. Our pastors must help our people realize they are missionaries commissioned by Christ to make disciples of all ethnicities in their immediate location (Matt. 28:19-20). We must engage our community where our lives intersect in the realms of education, medicine, commerce and recreation. When the crisis has come and gone, Christ’s people must remain, making disciples who, in tun, make disciples.

4. Regularly pray for our authority figures.

We’re commanded to pray for everyone, especially those who are in authority (2 Tim. 2:1-4). Our command to do this is not dependent on the attitudes or actions of those in authority. The gospel reminds us that if our authority figures do not know Jesus, it is our privilege to pray for them and present them (if possible) with the gospel message.

5. Refrain from extreme reactions.

The world usually responds in one of two extremes: rioting or remaining silent. On the other hand, we are to contribute solution-based ministry that parallels the reality of Romans 12:9-21 while we work for justice to be given to our fellow humans who are in need and oppressed.

God, in his providence, has positioned us here during this moment of redemptive history. He is calling on his children to represent him well while we steward the gospel message and its implications in our cities, nation and world. For this reason, we must begin to see any fellow human being who is a victim of any form of social injustice as our neighbor and come alongside them with compassion and the hope of Christ.

When this reality is the rhythm of life for our local community of believers, we’ll no longer sit content in silence when unarmed young men are murdered. We’ll no longer see them as names in newsworthy headlines, but rather as our neighbors in need of gospel-centered social justice that’s rooted in a healthy community of believers. And we’ll be committed to doing life with them after the storm is over. Christ has show us mercy and has commanded us to go and do the same.

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