A Kingdom of Comfort, Part 1

I’ve recently been hearing so much about humility that it’s forced me to take a moment and reflect. At church the other day, a good friend of mine gave a small talk based upon the premise that “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” We all know, upon examining scripture, that this is a reference to Proverbs 3:34. This verse is expounded upon in the writing of James in chapter 4, where it is quoted in verse 6, and built upon in verses 7-10: “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.” (ESV)

I love the correlation here between humbling oneself and mourning. I think that, all too often, believers are encouraged to “let go and let God,” to “surrender it to Him,” or to “trust the Lord,” as if those things magically remove the pain from our hearts when we encounter difficult circumstances. This is certainly an act of humbling oneself, but I believe it also becomes one of deception when we refuse to acknowledge grief or sadness. Much like sin (we see this elsewhere in James), grief and hurting can only really be healed when we finally admit that we need healing. Sometimes, we’re like small children who have cut our hands playing somewhere off-limits. We return to our parents, simply because we have nowhere else to go, and instead of raging about our disobedience, our Father simply beckons to us and says, “Show me where you’ve been hurt.”

Part of humility is an unrelenting honesty about the state of our hearts. When we humble ourselves, He is faithful to lift us up; that means that He will be faithful to heal our heavy hearts.

But how precisely does this God, this loving Father, this Great Comforter, heal us?

Does God heal us Himself, by His spirit, independent of other people; does He use new relationships and friends to comfort our hearts; or does He allow some of our hurts to remain, in order that we might find our comfort in the promise of His eventual return at the end of the age? This question could occupy our minds for the better part of our lives without ever truly being answered fully; however, for our purposes here, it is worth discussing. I believe the Lord uses all of these things and more to heal our hearts, and to prepare us for the Kingdom of God, both here-and-now and in the age to come.

Himself

This one should come as fairly obvious, and thus will not be discussed in as much length, for it’s a truth every believer knows, confesses, and takes heart in: He is our Great Comforter (John 14:26, where the Holy Spirit is referred to as our Comfort); He is our refuge (Psalm 46:1-3). The Holy Spirit himself comforts our hearts, speaking through the Word of God. According to Isaiah 58:6-11, when we care for the oppressed and act as justice-seekers for those who need justice, He is faithful to heal us, and our gloom “will be like the noonday”; that is, it will become light. While this message is contextually for the Israelite people, we as 21st century Christians can glean much wisdom from it. Rather than focusing on our own healing, we should seek to share the Lord with others, not only in the preaching of the Gospel but also in taking care of those who need to be taken care of. It echoes something Jesus says in Matthew about seeking first the Kingdom of God, and its righteousness; then, all things will be added to us as well. In this sense, we simply obey, since “to obey is better than sacrifice” (1 Sam.15:22), and trust the Lord to be faithful.

The Lord’s heart to heal is all over Scripture. He is faithful, too.  Even before Israel had a king, in the time of the Judges, He always appointed someone to save His people, even though it was their unfaithfulness that caused their pain. How crazy awesome is that? Even when it is our own sin that causes us to be harmed, He is STILL faithful to heal us! He doesn’t even abandon Israel when she is unfaithful in the years of the United and Divided Monarchies; rather, He is constantly sending prophets who preach a word of forgiveness and repentance to a faithless and loveless bride. One needs simply to read Psalm 40 to realize the depth of God’s commitment to healing and delivering His people: “I waited patiently for the LORD; He inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure” (Verses 1-2, ESV). This is what He does. He heals.

Another key point to remember is the truth that “every good and perfect gift is from above” (James 1:17), and therefore, at the basest level, every good thing that brings joy to our hearts, be it a song, a relationship, or even the sunrise, is ultimately from the Lord. Make no mistake: He is the source. He always has been and always will be. This could go on for ages. I’d like to move on to a slightly more controversial topic in part 2!

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Living a Life of Thanksgiving

As I sit and write this blog post I am in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The day I arrived I contracted a bacterial strain of pink eye that I am quite confident is one part sickness and three parts pure evil.

The strain is an intense one that is accompanied by flu-like symptoms and that spreads rapidly.  The pink eye moved from one eye into the other in less than 24 hours and left a popped blood vessel and a black eye in its wake. Since that time the bacteria has also moved into my right ear, causing an ear infection and temporary loss of hearing.

I’ve been bed-ridden for most of my trip thus far due to the illness and, as a result, have had ample time to sit and reflect. In my reflection I realized…I live quite the pampered life here.

For starters, I have the ability to travel and see first-hand things that many only read about . . . or never even learn of. I’ve been to five countries in the last four weeks and have the blessing of being reunited with friends that live on the other side of the world.

Additionally, I am staying in a safe home, protected by a locked gate. The walls are thick and sturdy, unlike the sticks that many of the homes in the Cambodian provinces are constructed from. The floors are also finished, offering a cleaner living environment than the traditional dirt floor allows.

As I lay here (on a hard, but clean mattress), a fan is blowing on me to provide relief from the sweltering heat. That’s right . . . I also have the blessing of electricity . . . a luxury that many in third world countries have never experienced in their homes.

I am able to wash dishes and brush my teeth from the sink in the kitchen because it has a built-in double water filtration system that makes the water safe. Yes, this may be the only sink in the house where that is the case, but still, in the kitchen there is no need to boil my water and manually filter it before cooking or washing.

And speaking of cooking . . . I have the blessing of a stove here! The gas burners may only offer two settings (high and higher . . . no low or medium setting exists) but the convenience of having multiple burners that turn on with the flip of a switch far outweighs the challenges of cooking over a small fire outside.

Not only can I cook indoors, but I also have the ability to shower indoors. Sure, there is no hot water or actual bathtub so the water is like ice and gets the entire bathroom floor wet, but at least there is a drain in my fully finished floor!

And, when I need to go to the local market the tuk-tuk driver comes directly to my door so that I don’t have to walk the muddy street out to the main road. He even helps me carry my purchases. Such service!

As I prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving halfway around the world from my family this year, some of these blessings that would otherwise be easily overlooked are at the forefront of my mind. I am learning what it means to live with a heart of thankfulness and praise. (I’m even learning to be thankful for sickness that forces me to slow down and that helps to remind me of the many blessings that God has given me.)

I pray that this holiday season (and every day) you will learn to do the same . . . minus the pink eye, because, let’s be honest, I would never wish that on anyone! 🙂

“Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness: come before him with joyful songs. Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.” –Psalm 100 

How Teaching at a Christian School Helped Me Understand the Book of Leviticus, part three

There’s another problem, though. In order to get us all “in line” and following all of His rules exactly, God would have had to speak almost exclusively about rules all the time, but if He did this, we would be in danger of thinking that following the rules was all it took to please Him. And that’s a really dangerous place to be.

scc_heavenintherealworldI think that teaching at a Christian school really helped me understand the book of Leviticus, because I was in a position of having to represent the rule-makers to the rule-followers. That is not an easy position to be in. For example, we had a rule that said students were not allowed to wear band shirts to school, and the students thought it was stupid. I don’t know how many times I heard, “I’m seriously getting in trouble for wearing this Stephen Curtis Chapman shirt?! Stephen Curtis Chapman is seriously like the most Christian musician there is!”

Ok… I take that back. I never heard that… But I could have. And I did hear similar things…

“It’s not like I’m wearing a Marilyn Manson shirt.”

“What do my clothes have to do with my Christianity?”

“Are you saying that my shirt is a sin?”

Let’s think about goals and difficulties for a minute, remembering that God faced the same kind of thing, and we will continue to face the same kind of thing every time we pair religion with rules.

The point of the rule was to keep kids from wearing shirts that were genuinely offensive. The administration also wanted to set a standard of modesty, so they established a somewhat arbitrary length for girls’ skirts.

One of the reasons that rules have to be specific is that, had we said that students needed to avoid offensive and immodest clothing, there is no possible way discipline could have been enforced. Students would have had to change clothes between every class, because even the teachers could not agree on what counted as modest or immodest.

So God wants people to release their slaves based on the fact that they have realized that slaves are human beings. This is much better than releasing them because God said they had to or He would kill them. But there remains the problem of treatment of slaves, and we have to take into account that the master isn’t the only one that matters – the slave matters to God too. If God made no rules protecting slaves from severe mistreatment, surely slaves would be prone to think that they didn’t matter to God.

So He decides to take a different road, protecting the slaves while giving the masters a chance to realize that slaves are people too. He makes a law requiring masters to treat their slaves well.

But unless those laws are specific, they are meaningless. What is to stop a slave master from saying that as long as the slave is alive he hasn’t been mistreated? How do you enforce a law that says you’re supposed to “be kind”?

The other side of the problem at our Christian school, and this was really the bigger problem, was that some students started thinking that as long as they didn’t wear band shirts and their skirts were the right length, then they were on good terms with God. This was the problem the Pharisees had. They didn’t spit on any rocks on Saturday, in fact they even counted their steps to make sure they didn’t walk too far, but they missed the whole point of the day. The day was a day of rest and worship, but they were so busy worrying about whether or not they were desecrating it with their spit and their steps that they didn’t have time to think about what really matters to God.

The rules do matter, because God needs to tell us what a person who follows Him looks like.

And they matter because sometimes people need to be restrained. It is important to, like God, allow for the development of character over time so that obedience is not only outward. But that doesn’t mean that we keep letting people murder each other in hopes that one day they will have a change of heart and decide to stop.

They also matter because they tell us about our God.

And when I look at the laws through this lens, I see something pretty incredible.

God always raises the standard.

At any period of history, you can look at external records and find that the Bible is ahead of its time in terms of the ethical norms of society. In the Old Testament world, a man could divorce or kill his wife whenever he wanted. God required him to give her a certificate stating why he was sending her away. He raised the standard and, in so doing, challenged men to look past what they saw around them and lift themselves above the status quo.

When certificates of divorce became the status quo and men began using them as an excuse to get out of their marriages, Jesus reminded them that it was only because of the hardness of their hearts that the Old Testament allowed them to divorce with conditions. Their hearts had gotten a bit softer and a bit closer to God’s intention, but they needed softening still. They needed to remember Genesis 1:27 and the story of the creation of Eve.

In all of this, God never compromises His absolute moral standard. He never stops telling us that we are to be perfect as He is perfect. He never stops telling us that His own character is the standard. And He never stops telling us what the next step is in getting to where He wants us to be.

A good teacher teaches both the ultimate goal and the next step in the process.

God is a good teacher.

And He never takes shortcuts in getting us aligned with His ultimate standard.

Because the standard is not just outward obedience.

The standard is obedience based upon love of God, honor toward one another, and understanding of our own place within the world He has created.

He will never compromise, and He is still softening our hearts.

Because we’re not home yet…

How Teaching at a Christian School Helped Me Understand the Book of Leviticus, part two

Cultural and historical context are also important when we start thinking about how the Old Testament laws were to be enforced, and about what God ultimately wanted to happen as a result of giving them.

A few years ago, I was volunteering with Justice for All at the campus of the University of Northern Colorado, and at the end of my conversation with one of the students that had seen the display, he asked me about the group’s goals: “What do you guys ultimately want out of this?”

I told him that our goal was for abortion to be outlawed, but I realized later that I had lied, at least about what I wanted personally. I don’t really care all that much about the laws. What I care about are the babies. And no matter what happens with the laws, my real goal is that abortion clinics have to close because of lack of demand. In the end, the result would be the same – abortion would end. But the way we get there would be totally different, and the way we get there is incredibly important.

Modern missionaries have faced a unique dilemma in ministering to polygamous tribes. Let’s say missionary Harry goes to Papua New Guinea and, through chronological Bible storytelling, a certain tribe begins to accept the gospel and live as believers. As they begin to pursue Biblical ethics for their tribe, they realize that God’s intention for polygamy_evilmarriage is that each man have only one wife, and vice versa. What does Harry do with the man who already has 6 wives? In order to follow the letter of the command, he must either divorce or kill 5 of his wives, but is that really what we want? The solution to this is, of course, complex and must be dealt with uniquely in each situation, but I use it to illustrate the fact that the world in which these laws were given was not a blank slate. It was a very chaotic, morally confused world in which men married, divorced, and killed their wives, children, and slaves based on whim and mood, human sacrifice was commonplace, and feuds between families and between nations continued until one side or the other was completely obliterated from the face of the earth. To get people to start treating each other with respect in a world like this is quite a task.

But God’s goal is not just obedience. His goal is obedience that results from a changed heart, which is one of the primary messages of the sermon on the Mount. It’s important to note that Jesus never changed God’s rules, in fact He followed the Old Testament closely. His rebellion (I’ve heard it called this, but I think teaching people that Jesus was a rebel probably does more harm than good) was against the kind of laws that teach people that as long as they behave the right way, their hearts do not matter. What Jesus was attacking was a fundamental misunderstanding of what the Law was all about. This is why Jesus spit in the dirt to heal a man on the Sabbath. For those who don’t know, the Pharissees had a law that said it was legal to spit on a rock, but not on the dirt, on the Sabbath. The only possible justification I can think of for this is that, should there happen to be a seed in the ground where I spit and it grows as a result of the moisture I have placed upon it, then I have farmed on Saturday and deserve to be cast into the Lake of Fire. By spitting on this law (sorry…), Jesus points out the ridiculousness and hypocrisy of such a situation. He has just healed a blind man, but the really important blind_Healingthing is where He spit… This is sort of like telling a rape convict who wants to get saved that he’s going to have to get rid of his earrings and pull his pants up. It may be that at some point he does both of those things, maybe even because he loves Jesus, but the timing is a little off.

And timing is actually pretty important. If you watch the progression of God’s revelation throughout history, it’s not all that difficult to see that He is continually calling people to a higher standard, taking the long road of character change in order to reveal what He really wanted from the beginning. This, I think, is one of the most incredible and beautiful things about God. He never compromises on the absolute standards, but He also meets us where we are at in order to bring us, by our own choice and the development of our own character, to where He wants us.

Let’s take the example of slavery. From the beginning, it was very clear that God created all men (and women) equal. Genesis 1:27 says that man and woman were both created in the image of God, and the early laws make no distinction between one man and another by way of race, ability, age, etc. God’s desire is that all human beings, as His image-bearers, be seen and treated as equally valuable. But by the time we get to Leviticus and Deuteronomy, sin is firmly in place, human nature is corrupted, and slavery is commonplace. What is God to do now? How does He rid the world of slavery?

Let me pause and remind you that God’s goal is not to rid the world of slavery. His goal is to fill the earth with men and women who will not tolerate slavery because they have learned to honor the intrinsic and inalienable value of every human life.

God could have gotten rid of slavery by sending a lightning bolt to kill everyone who owned slaves, or even by making slave-owning punishable by death. But what would have been the result? He would have achieved half His goal. Granted, people would not own slaves, and that’s a good thing. But it’s not nearly as good as people not wanting to own slaves because they respect each other. He would also have had to keep doing this, every generation, until the end of time, because people’s actual morality would never change. Effectiveness in the short term does not equal effectiveness in the long term. And God seems an awfully patient fellow when it comes to things that are really important, like the morality of the human race.

How Teaching at a Christian School Helped Me Understand the Book of Leviticus, part one

I think anyone who has ever done any serious thinking about the relationship between the Old Testament and the New Testament, or even read the Old Testament closely, has wondered what we do with all the crazy laws we find in the Old Testament. Which ones should we still follow? Am I going to hell if I eat pork or shellfish? What about tattoos? Should we really stone kids to death for disobeying their parents? If a man dies without having children, does his brother really have to marry his wife and have a kid with her and then give that kid his dead brother’s money?

In this, like most things that have to do with the Bible, I think it’s very important that we understand before we try to apply. Most of us jump right to wondering which of these laws we’re still supposed to follow, which is not a bad question, but it skips a few steps. I think a good place to start with this particular issue is trying to figure out the point of these laws within their original historical, cultural, and political contexts.

One of the simplest and most fundamental tenets of the study of communication is that all communication involves at least three things – a sender/speaker, a receiver/listener, and a message. If we discount any one of these three, there’s no way we’re really going to understand what is being communicated, and if we want to know what God meant when He said these things, we have to start with asking what it would have meant to the original audience. Here are a few examples of how this can drastically affect the meaning of a message:

In 2011, if I turn to the young man next to me in class and ask him if he is gay, I am asking a question about sexuality. In 1908, the same question directed to the same young man would have been a question about mood.

If I have a guest staying at my house, and I ask the question, “are you hungry?” I am asking whether or not he wants me to make him a sandwich. If I am a football coach giving an inspirational speech before a playoff game and I ask the same question, I am asking about my players’ level of desire to win the game.

dumb 4

 

And finally, to borrow a bit from Dumb and Dumber, the statement “I’ve got worms” does not always refer to intestinal parasites – sometimes it means you’re actually in possession of a certain species of slithering animalia.

So if we want to know what a person meant by a message, we have to at least ask what that message would have meant to the original audience.

This is particularly pertinent to Old Testament laws like the ones about tattoos and boiling a baby goat in it’s mother’s milk, and even some New Testament laws like the ones that say women shouldn’t have short hair or ever talk in church. For us, a tattoo of a swastika carries a very specific, strong meaning, but before Hitler, it would not have carried that same meaning. Similarly, showing your middle finger to someone is offensive in the Thumbs-UpUnited States, but in other countries this is not so. And to insert a bit of travel advice – it is always wise to find out a country’s equivalent to our middle finger before you go there, just in case it’s something like a thumbs up or the “ok” sign. This could be especially problematic if you don’t speak the language and you’re trying to tell the guy at Starbucks that he got your order right…

But back to the laws…

Sometimes we get confused when there are cultural issues we don’t know. Tattooing in the Old Testament was used to identify a person with a pagan god. In fact, priests and priestesses would often tattoo an image of the god or goddess they served on their bodies as a sign of devotion to that god, and for the people of ancient Israel, tattooing was seen as a sign of pagan religious devotion, so saying you were getting a “Jewish tattoo” would be kind of like getting a giant picture of Satan inked on your face and claiming it’s because you love God so much.

Sometimes, we have to dig a little deeper in order to really understand what God is asking us for. More on this tomorrow…

Like the Little Boys We Are

As a weight loss counselor, I see a wide variety of people during the course of my work day. You have the graduates: the people who have achieved their goals and walk into the center with smiles on their faces and skinny jeans on their hips. Then you have the people who are struggling to lose their weight. They had a rough weekend or they simply haven’t been trying hard enough. They are defeated. It is truly heartbreaking.

My favorite clients to sit with are the ones who bring in their children. It’s always an adventure trying to have a counseling session with small boys running around at top speed shouting war cries! Anyone who’s ever had a conversation with me knows that I absolutely love the warrior spirit that boyhood is so bent on celebrating.

The other day, I had a father come into the center with his three children. He had a daughter of probably seven, a young son who couldn’t have been more than three, and an infant of no more than eight months. The father sat down and began his session with one of my co-workers, and the girl and boy proceeded to do their laps. After only a few minutes, as you might expect, there was a slight bump, and the sound of a small child crying issued forth from the other side of the center. Immediately, without a single word or even a look of frustration, the father jumped from his chair and sought out his injured child. There was no anger in his face, but a solid, daring determination. He sought out his son, picked him up his arms, took him back to his seat, and kissed his forehead and simply asked, “What happened?”

Meanwhile, I’m sitting at my own desk practically in tears. You see, dear friends, this is the father heart of God! He chases after us the moment we cry out to Him, wraps us up in His arms, kisses our forehead, and simply asks, “What happened?” This is not to say that He does not know what we’ve been up to. He is fully aware of our metaphorical (and perhaps literal) laps around the room. However, He is patient with us. He asks us because we are designed to be comforted by His voice. The voice of our Father is the voice of the One who loves us. In that moment, that young boy’s tears began to fade as he felt his father’s arms around him. The father was not angry. He did not strike his son or berate the little one for running around like the boy he was. He was merely patient with his son, and comforted him.

How much more does our Father in heaven love to wrap His arms around us? And how much more grace does He have for us when, like the little boys we are, we injure ourselves simply by running around the room? Ultimately, as Karl Barth would say (in far less words), God’s “Yes” to us far outweighs His “No.” It is this “Yes” that we hear when we cry out in pain, needing comfort. And my, what a comfort He is!

Perhaps the best part of unconditional love is the complete and utter lack of I-told-you-so’s. Unconditional love doesn’t keep score or lose its patience. Rather, “…It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” (1 Corinthians 13:7, NIV) If Jon Foreman is right, and love is a verb, then love sounds a lot like grace and looks a lot like comfort. It is this crazy notion that a person is worth more than the ways that they hurt themselves and make themselves cry. Love is this huge, resplendent, lion of a Father who couldn’t even dream of letting His children cry forever.

Friends, let us take comfort in this image of our Father: the one who, at the sound of our voice crying out, immediately leaves His throne, wraps us up in His arms, kisses our forehead…and shows us the Love that we could never deserve or earn, but that Love that has found us.

Creatures of Contact: First, Do No Harm.

“Is there some lesson on how to be friends?

I think what it means is that central to living

A life that is good is a life that’s forgiving. 

We’re creatures of contact, regardless of whether

to kiss or to wound, we still must come together.”

Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die, Cherish, Perish

By David Rakoff

St. Francis reputedly moved snails from his path. St. Sebastian died twice for God’s glory. A poet in my grad classes scoops spiders up, and drops them outside. Perhaps it’s my pride, or perhaps because I’m human, but I find it particularly difficult to let someone slap me, then turn the other cheek, never even mind the inconsequential spiders that make the fateful error of spinning webs in my domicile.

It’s not a literal slapping that wounds me; I teach college freshmen, and there are zero toddlers within a ten-mile radius. Still, I’m in a grad fiction workshop, and I’m sure you can imagine the angst that involves. And even when considering the past, and former friends who snubbed, hurt, or angered me, I can sometimes sense frustration bubbling inside. Not hurt so much as irritation. To think that I once gave them the power of intimacy! How annoying, that they may still believe their arrows rankle! These feelings are simultaneous with a desire to stab a bit at their pride with well-wrought pokers of disdain. I may imagine a cool encounter in the grocery store: “I’ve got to run, the Guild of Impressive People is waiting for me! Toodle-oo!” Or perhaps a story in which the despicable main character bears an unfortunate resemblance to the one person who reamed my work so harshly the month before.

A dear friend expressed a similar feeling a few months ago–the frustration of never having “got back her own” after a suddenly cancelled marriage. I was angry, too. Her ex-fiance had no business carrying on in life, I fumed to myself, and he probably thought his actions were so all-fired powerful. I imagined that he remembered, with a certain amount of satisfaction, how he had been so cool and strong, whereas she was mystified, crushed.

Of course, I don’t really know. And if he does strut about, self-satisfied with his power to woo and slay, woo and slay, ad nauseum, then he destroys himself. When gazing wholly upon ourselves, whether in self-loathing or self-satisfaction, we miss the wonder of the world that streams beyond our clouded eyes.

I know sometimes we think the first one to act possesses the most agency, believing the strong are those who lash out, break up, snap at, mock. My friend gave a man the emotional space to wound her, and he chose to do so. But she is the one wreathed in glory. For she, even stumbling from hurt and surprise, refused to hit back.

As the Hippocratic Oath famously states, “First, do no harm.” Our bodies are spirit and flesh bound together, and though I’m not a physician, Christ, the greatest healer, resides in me. If we Christians were to claim an oath, swear to it with our hands shaping the cross over our hearts, then surely we should speak the greatest commandments: love God, love others.

The most gracious among us live in the wake of other people’s needs, and continue to give despite cruelty, or ingratitude. Often, they give invisibly. Mothers packing school lunches with apples and napkin-notes before morning light cracks the night sky. Fathers coming home exhausted to sooth the squabbles of teenage children. The single men and women who prop up churches with book-keeping, nursery-cleaning, and prayer. The physically and mentally disabled who struggle through the social context we create everyday–the context that resists their comfort and inclusion. The stray puppies with paws on the chain-link cage doors at the animal shelter.

“The least of these” are those who have power to harm, yet temper its use through wisdom and love.

“The least of these” are those without power, who thus live in the glory of grace.

Instead of seeking to always raise our own stature, let’s delight in the least of these.