Rights of Neighbors

July 19, 2016

Note: This address was originally given at the Idara-E-Jaferia Islamic Community Center in Burtonsville, Maryland. 

Introduction & Thanks

Good evening. Thank you for having me here tonight for this intriguing and important discussion of the rights of our neighbors. It is an honor to be with you. It may be helpful for you to know something of my connection to this event. For over a decade now, I have had the privilege of being friends with Rahat Husain, a member of the Islamic community. I can’t remember when and where Rahat and I first met, but our discussions have always been meaningful and significant. Whenever we do get together, I am grateful that we are able to have consequential and cordial conversation about the differences in our faiths.

Let’s dive right into the topic that is before us. I want to make two related points in thinking about the rights of our neighbors. I don’t have time to address everything I assert, so if something strikes you as interesting and you want to circle back to it, let me encourage you to make a note and bring it up in the time of Q&A.

First, I want us to see the need for rights, and then I want us to see the need for love. To do that I want us to consider a conversation that Jesus had with a religious lawyer. This conversation is recorded in chapter 10 of Luke’s Gospel. That is in the New Testament portion of the Bible. As a Christian, I hold that the Bible is the God’s totally trustworthy and true Word.

To set the scene, we should understand that a critical moment has taken place in Jesus’ life and ministry. In Luke chapter 9, Jesus has revealed that he is going to Jerusalem to die for the salvation of sinners. Jesus is traveling and walking on the road that leads to his death. On this road he is teaching and healing and interacting with all sorts of people. Please listen as I read from the New Testament about one of Jesus’ interactions on the road to his death from Luke 10:25-37.

25 And behold, a lawyer stood up to put [Jesus] to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 [Jesus] said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” 27 And [the lawyer] answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” 28 And [Jesus] said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.” 29 But [the lawyer], desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when [the priest] saw him he passed by on the other side. 32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when [the Samaritan] saw him, he had compassion. 34 He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 And the next day [the Samaritan] took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ 36 Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” 37 [The lawyer] said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”

The Need for Rights

I wonder if you hear the need for rights and the need for love in this reading from the Bible. The need for rights and the need for love seems obvious enough, doesn’t it? A man gets beaten up on a road. That’s not right, and several rights were violated. Jesus’ parable is also pretty realistic too. This kind of thing happened on that road from Jerusalem to Jericho. People were often beaten and robbed on that road.

This is kind of thing happens in our world too, doesn’t it? I mean, we can think of this happening to a man traveling from Burtonsville to Baltimore, can’t we? When we read this story and see this kind of thing play out in our world, we think to ourselves or we should think to ourselves, “This man deserved to have his rights of life, liberty, and the security of his person protected.” It seems to me that we as human beings instinctively know that rights are a necessity in our world. I hope that is something we can all agree on. Deep down in our consciences we know that rights are needed, but why are they needed?

The answer ties directly to what Jesus says and what we just read in Luke 10. In fact, it ties into the story of the Bible from the very beginning. In the very first chapter of the Bible, in the Torah, in Genesis chapter 1, we learn that God created the world and everything in it. God is the author of life, and he told us in Genesis 1:26 that he made man in his image. He even made the first neighbors when he made Adam and Eve.

Because man bears the image of God, when our fellow man is attacked, God, by extension, is attacked. When we fail to love our neighbor, we actually fail to love God. Indeed, the reason we fail to love our neighbor is because we have failed to love God. If we are honest with ourselves, we will confess that our neighbors need rights because we are sinners. We have failed to love God with all that we have and all that we are. We have broken God’s good commands just like our first parents, just like Adam and Eve did in the Garden of Eden.

When Adam and Eve sinned and rebelled against God, when they decided to love themselves instead of loving God, the perfect loving relationship between the first two neighbors in world history crumbled. Adam blamed Eve for his sin. Tell me, when spouses start blaming one another in a marriage relationship, is that a happy relationship? No. When Adam and Eve sinned against God, not only did their love for God fail, but so did their love for one another. Because this was true for Adam and Eve, it became true for the rest of humanity. How could it not, with everyone descending from Adam and Eve?

Why do our neighbors need rights? Frankly, our neighbors need rights because we are sinners who love ourselves more than we love God. Everyone is a sinner, and we know this because we not only see it in the news and in our neighborhoods, but also because we see it in our own hearts. We have not loved God with everything that we have and are.

We also know from the Scriptures and from our own consciences that God his holy, just, and good. Because God is holy, just, and good he cannot allow sin to go unpunished. God must punish sin, and so all of humanity stands in danger of facing his eternal punishment against our sin in hell. Our sin demands an eternal punishment because we have sinned against the one eternal God. We deserve an eternal death for our sin. So what are we to do? This is where I’d like us to come back to Luke 10 to remember afresh that conversation between Jesus and the religious lawyer about loving our neighbor. This is where we see the need for love.

The Need for Love

Remember that the conversation first began with the lawyer wanting to test and trap Jesus. Does seeking to trap Jesus sound like the lawyer really wanted love his neighbor when he asked, “Who is my neighbor?” Luke told us the lawyer wanted to justify himself. He loved himself. Jesus then told that parable about what loving your neighbor really looks like. Do you remember how Jesus concluded it? Jesus said to the lawyer, “You go, and do likewise.” Jesus was not telling the man how he might go and earn eternal life. We cannot earn salvation through good works, so what was Jesus telling the man?

Jesus was telling this man, “You don’t love God or your neighbor.” We know that this man did not love God and his neighbor because in the parable, Jesus didn’t make the religious figures the hero. He made the hated Samaritan the hero, and when Jesus asked him, “Which one proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” The lawyer couldn’t even bring himself to say the word, “Samaritan.”

Friends, not a single one of us here tonight has perfectly loved God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength. Not a single one of us here tonight has loved our neighbor as much as we have loved ourselves. The only way that we can receive eternal life is by recognizing that Jesus was the only one who ever perfectly loved God with all of his heart, soul, mind, and strength. And Jesus loved his neighbor more than life itself. We see the supreme display of Jesus’ love for God and neighbor in his death on the cross. On the cross Jesus took the sins and the punishment due to them for all of those who would ever turn from their sins and trust in him alone for salvation. Three days after his death, God the Father, raised Jesus from the dead vindicating him and proving to us all that his love for God and neighbor was perfect.

We can’t earn eternal life through our love of neighbor. Only Jesus can give us eternal life because only he perfectly loved God and neighbor. Only Jesus can give us eternal life, because he is the only one who conquered death to secure it. We need his love, and the good news is, that he invites us to receive his love through turning from our sin and placing our faith alone in him for salvation. There is salvation in no other name but Jesus, so put your faith in Jesus.


As I conclude, I want to stress that we are indeed called to love our neighbor, and part of that love means protecting his rights. But hear me clearly, we can only love our neighbor, because we have first been loved the Good Neighbor, Jesus Christ. It is in response to Jesus love that we properly love our neighbor, and that love will cost us something.

Jesus showed us that in the parable of the Good Samaritan, where the Good Samaritan gave up his resources, his time, and his money. You see, actually loving our neighbor and protecting his rights actually burdens us and costs us something. Jesus taught us this in the parable of the Good Samaritan, but ultimately, he taught us this in his death. He gave up his right to a fair trial, his right to due process, his right to the protection of his person, and ultimately his right to life. So that the wounds that you and I have been inflicted with on the road of this life might be healed. May we love God with all that we have and all that we are, and may we love our neighbors as ourselves, because we see and believe that Jesus first loved us. Thank you for the privilege of speaking to you tonight, I look forward to our discussion.

Mike Law Jr.

Prior to serving as the Senior Pastor of Arlington Baptist Church, Mike Law Jr. served as the planting pastor of a local church in Northern Virginia, and as a Pastoral Assistant to Mark Dever at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C. Read More by this Author

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