The unseen love that will guide you through the mundane of a new year

January 25, 2019

It’s 3 a.m. and time for another feeding, following on the heels of a day spent walking up and down the stairs in an attempt to quiet the rumbles of a tiny acid-reflux tummy. I soothe my first child back to sleep. Eventually the cries soften. Even then I continue to hold him, transfixed by the tranquility creeping across his face.

And then it hits me. Elijah will not remember this. He will not remember the days of unending tummy aches. He will not remember overeating to soothe his acid reflux. He will not remember me marching up and down the stairs with him during the daytime, a motion that’s inexplicably relieving. And he will not remember the nighttime routine—eat, cry, cry some more, and finally sleep—that took place at two-and-half-hour intervals. Even more unsettling: Elijah will not remember the joy with which I hold him at 3 a.m.

Unseen love

So much love goes unseen. The clothes get washed and the dishes done after little ones are in bed. Sleep is foregone for a sick toddler or a midnight-talking teenager. (The average mom loses two months’ worth of sleep during a baby’s first year of life.) Silent prayers are offered up for children morning, noon, and night. Work is attended to in order to provide for little ones’ needs or a 20-year-old’s college tuition.

As I consider the sleepless nights of early baby days and the acts of love and service my children may never comprehend, I am undone by this thought: How much of God’s love goes unseen? How much do I fail to see the God of the universe at work in my life, providing for all of my needs? Do I comprehend the creation, caretaking, and ultimate sacrifice of a loving heavenly Father? Do I take time to enjoy his blessing and provision?

The efforts of loving parents, valiant as they are, pale in comparison to the unseen acts of divine love. The Father God is always working on our behalf. As Jesus tells his disciples, “My Father is working until now, and I am working” (John 5:17). He is the God who never sleeps or slumbers. But there are times when, like my small children, I cannot see his hands reached out in loving provision. There are times when his footprints of love are unseen.

Psalm 77 recounts God’s magnificent wall-of-water rescue. The banks of the Red Sea piled high as Israel walked on dry land to escape Egyptian slavery. Yet, amidst one of the most amazing rescues in all of history, the psalmist tells us that the author and architect of that grand plan—the Father God—was not always visible to the Israelites. “Your way was through the sea, your path through the great waters; yet your footprints were unseen” (Psa. 77:19, emphasis mine).

Although the Israelites did not see God’s footprints, the path to freedom was God’s path: the path he had prepared and provided. Even when he was unseen, God was leading his people with the gentle hand of a caretaker, a shepherd, a Father determined to bring his children out of slavery and darkness into the broad places of light and life and sovereign protection.

And this was just as he had promised. As early as Genesis 28:15, the Lord proclaimed, “I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land. For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” And, in promising to deliver the Israelites from Egypt, the Lord’s words reverberate: “Be strong, courageous, and firm; fear not nor be in terror before them, for it is the Lord your God Who goes with you; He will not fail you or forsake you” (Deut. 31:6, ampc).

The depth of a Father’s love

My heart hurts with the knowledge that Elijah may never fully realize the depth of a mother’s love. Part of me, it’s true, would like credit for all of those hours(!), but more than this, I want Elijah to know that he is worth every sleepless minute. I want him to know that any sacrifice pales in comparison to the joy of being his mom. I want him to know how treasured he is. I want his identity to be rooted and grounded in the knowledge that he is fully, deeply, and unconditionally (though imperfectly) loved.

How much more must the Father’s heart break when I fail to recognize the vast dimensions of his love for me—the overflowing, abundant, self-sacrificial love of a perfect dad? This Dad delights in me, saying, “This is my beloved daughter in whom I am well pleased.” This Dad promises never to leave me; He surrounds me, indwells me even. This Dad made the heavens and earth, provides all that I need, and promises never to let my foot slip. He upholds all who fall, satisfies the desires of every living thing, and is near to all who call on him. The One who never slumbers is ever vigilant, watching over us constantly as we come and as we go. We are his most treasured possession.

God the Father is at work not only in the grand rescues but also the mundane. When the bondage of sin and the brokenness of the present world overwhelm us, let’s not forget that the Father is always at work. We need not fear, for we know that he’s working for our good. His story is still unfolding—he’s orchestrating the most magnificent of victories—and his path always parts the sea, even when his footprints are not seen.

Adapted from Living Beloved: Lessons from my little ones about the heart of God. Used with permission.

Erin Hawley

Erin Hawley is a wife, mom to two small boys, and some-time lawyer. She is also an award-winning law professor at the University of Missouri, Yale-trained constitutional lawyer, and attorney to one of the country’s premier law firms. She is intimately familiar with the joys and struggles of the working-mom life. … 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