What our stay-at-home mom taught us about human dignity

May 10, 2017

Almost every day of our childhood, we would pull down my grandmother’s long driveway and go in for a quick visit. We, two sisters, would sit together on the narrow piano bench and peck at the black and white keys in my grandmother’s living room while Mother moved through the house—setting out pills, fixing her mother’s hair, asking questions and washing clothes. It was our weekday routine, completed with a glass of chocolate milk in her wood-paneled kitchen.

Our grandmother, Zelma, had her first open heart surgery when our mother was 16. She would suffer through three more open-heart surgeries, breast cancer, a brain hemorrhage and a subsequent one-month coma in her rather long lifetime, considering the circumstances. Her story merits a full-length book. But for every chapter in the story of my grandmother, Mother was the caretaker, the advocate, the executor.

Our mother cared faithfully for our grandmother for decades, in every way imaginable. And upon our grandmother’s death in 1999, she began caring for other family members in need. She began to look after aunts, uncles and cousins. She cleaned toilets and picked up medicines. She made notes at doctor’s appointments and called insurances companies. She brought in food and took out the trash. The houses and the people changed, but not her way of life.

You can’t google our mother and see her accolades. She doesn’t speak or write for others. She has no public platform. She doesn’t even have a Facebook account. Yet, for our lives and ministries, she has been more influential than any other person.

In the flesh, we constantly evaluate those we encounter to determine if they are worthy of our time, our investment, our money or our heart. Our mother taught us to see with different eyes and to say “yes” when the world would say “no.” In most every circumstance, the recipients of our mother’s care could not repay her in any way. As her daughters, we didn’t need a sermon, a book or a conference to teach us how to see and affirm the dignity in every person, no matter their age, ability or worldly status. It’s the message we’ve seen our entire lives, and we hope to share those lessons with you here.  

Be motivated by love

Our generation broadcasts their lives, or at least a filtered version of them. Acts of service are publicized, even glamorized, for the world to see. Our mother’s care for others was not noticed by many outside of our family, and sometimes family members didn’t realize all she had done. There were no posts of the waiting rooms she visited. She clearly didn’t serve her family for the praise of man. She served because her heart, like Christ’s, was moved to compassion. (Matt. 9:36)

It’s a lie of the devil to think a sacrificial life of serving your family isn’t “a great thing.”

This was a devastating work. There’s much pain in watching illness and age affect someone you love. We don’t know how many times she has witnessed a loved one take her last breath. It would have been easier to walk away. It would have been easier to find professionals. But again and again, she was eager to do good works, walking in when others were walking out. (Titus 2:14) Only love—for Christ and for others—compels this type of sacrifice.

Do the work in front of you

Our generation has been challenged to do “great things for God,” and that call still beats within our hearts. But it’s a lie of the devil to think a sacrificial life of serving your family isn’t “a great thing.” So often, the enemy’s tactic is to complicate the simple commands of Jesus. Well-intentioned questions like, “What is my calling?” or “Where are my talents most utilized?” can distract and delay us. Yet, Scripture is clear that we need only love others like we love ourselves (Mark 12:30-31).

What are the needs within arm’s reach? Don’t devalue or abandon the title of son or daughter, wife or husband, mother or father, niece or nephew. The “others” and the “neighbors” for Mother were those God placed in her life through family. And as those who were the recipients and witnesses of that care, that work changed our lives for eternity.

Portray the gospel

To believe the message of a Savior who laid down his life for us was not a wide chasm, because we saw it every day—in a mother who laid down her own life for us and for others in need (1 John 3:16). We believe Mother was placed within her family to be the hands and feet of Jesus. Her life pointed my family to Christ. She brought heaven to earth because she cared for people, no matter their status, the way Jesus cared for them. We were taught to not fear sacrifice, and that conviction has anchored us through many seasons of our walks with Christ.

Don’t give up

Like all children, we have seen our Mother at her best and worst. We have seen the toil of emotional difficulties and laborious work. Yet, our Mother didn’t give up. (1 Cor. 13:4-7)

After my grandmother’s coma, doctors told our mother that our grandmother would never walk again. She was even encouraged to put her mother into a long-term care facility. Instead, our recently married mother and father moved into our grandmother’s house. Every day, the two women would take walks down that long driveway. Many times, my grandmother’s body would fail her, and she would fall flat on the concrete. My mother would lift her up, wipe her skinned hands and knees, and they would start again. Painfully and slowly, Mother taught her to walk again.

It’s our prayer that like our mother, our lives would be marked by the often slow and laborious walk of faithfulness, service, humility and love—a life that Jesus first walked, and passed down to us. Though she never sought affirmation or applause for her service, this Mother’s Day, we rise up and call her “blessed” (Prov. 31).

Jill Waggoner

Jill Waggoner serves as a communications and PR strategist, writing and developing content for the organization’s online and print resources. She has served the ERLC since 2005, including as brand manager for Global Hunger Relief from 2014-2018. A graduate of Union University, she and her family reside in Lebanon, Tennessee. 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