Small Acts of Mercy

Any given day, I encounter people who are homeless. When I drive home from my office on the North Shore of Pittsburgh, I pass 3-5 homeless people with signs asking for help. They are usually situated at intersections with traffic lights. When the light is red, I usually feel awkward. Do I make eye contact? Do I smile and wave at them? Do I give them something? Honestly, I feel a tension between my Christian beliefs to “love my neighbor as myself” and thinking, “If I give money, then they’ll just spend it on drugs or alcohol.” Usually, I avoid eye contact and move on like they weren’t even there. I feel horrible and have residual thoughts like, that’s somebody’s daughter, or why are they homeless, or I should have given them something.

This past week, I acted differently on two occasions. In the big picture, they are small acts of mercy, however, they’ve had a profound impact on me. The flaw in my original thinking was that the Holy Spirit is not present with me in my act. The correction in my new thinking is that He indeed is present. As I reflected, it made me think about something Mister (Fred) Rogers once said, “Who would have ever dreamed that a simple offering life we make on television for children would be used in so many ways, in so many wonderful ways. You know the space between our mouth and the people’s ears or eyes who receive what we make, that is holy ground. The space between the television screen and whoever happens to be receiving it, I consider that very holy ground.

That statement completely transforms my mind and heart. Who am I to think that the recipients of whatever I give won’t use it for good? That’s not up for me to decide. I need to treat that space between my hand and their hand, my eyes and their eyes, my heart and their heart as holy ground, and trust the Holy Spirit will do the rest.

Small Act of Mercy #1

When walking in the city, it’s not hard to miss someone in need on every block. I had just enjoyed a business lunch at Alihan’s Mediterranean Cuisine and upon leaving the restaurant, my group was accosted by a black woman screaming, begging for money to pay the bus fare to McKeesport. Somehow she was stuck in Pittsburgh and needed to get to McKeesport. I was the last to see and hear her. Everyone else seemed to be startled by the woman’s approach. Rather than ignore the woman, I looked her in the eyes and asked, “What do you need dear?” She replied in a loud, cry, “I’m stranded and need to buy a bus ticket to McKeesport to get home.” I paused and then said, “I’ll give you what I have in cash in my wallet.” Normally, I don’t have any cash, but I knew I had $11 so I gave it to her. A sense of relief came over her face, she thanked me and walked away.

Small Act of Mercy #2

On my commute home, I approached the main intersection for the on-ramp to I-279. I noticed someone I hadn’t seen before, an older white woman with a dog on a leash. She was holding a sign saying, “Homeless. Hungry. Anything is appreciated. God Bless.” I happened to have a $5 in my wallet this day. I made eye contact with her. She smiled at me. I rolled down my window. She turned to her dog and told her to “sit.” As the $5 transitioned from my hand to hers, she thanked me with a look of genuine gratitude.

Who knows what they did with the money? It wasn’t a lot, but it’s what little I had at the time. Sure, they could have used it to buy something I wouldn’t approve of, however, the gesture could also have touched their hearts because someone noticed them, showed them dignity, and had mercy on them.

After all, that is what being a neighbor is really all about … having mercy on others. Mercy is being loved when we deserve it the least but need it the most. Mercy is the most powerful form of God’s love.

Now, “go and do likewise.”

Neighbor-Zone Resilience

Dallas & Jarah 2007
Dallas & Jarah 2022

How do we become more resilient over time? Without challenges, without stress, our resilience is not tested. In 2007, my children’s resilience was low. In 2022, they are two very resilient young adults.

A home in Gilchrist, Texas, designed to resist flood waters survived Hurricane Ike in 2008.

Simply stated, resilience is the capacity to recover from difficulties. In the professions of engineering and construction, resilience is the ability to respond, absorb, and adapt to, as well as recover from a disruptive event. A resilient structure, system, or community is expected to be able to resist an extreme event with minimal damage; after the event, it should be able to rapidly recover its functionality similar to or even better than the pre-event level.

When I reflect on the role of stress in our lives, my initial thought is that it’s bad. However, when I look at it through the lens of resilience, I realize that without it, we would not grow into wise, well-adjusted, firmly-grounded adults able to withstand life’s storms. Stress is an unavoidable and necessary condition of personal growth. There are two types of stress: distress and eustress. Good or bad can result from either type. The difference in the outcome is a function of our interpretation and our worldview. In other words, how we choose to see it affects the outcome.

Every morning, when my kids go off to school, I give them a kiss and tell them I love them. I don’t take it for granted that I’ll see them again. If that’s the last time I see and speak with them, I want those to be the last things they remember about me: the feeling of my lips on their cheek, the warmth of my skin against theirs, and the parental love in my voice. Now that they’re teenagers, they don’t receive it as they once did on the surface, but I know deep down in their hearts that they appreciate, expect, and need it. At the core, what I’m modeling is not only love but also compassion because they will need both to get through their school day.

Throughout their day, they will be subjected to all kinds of stress. Some may be distress. Some eustress. I want them to know there’s far more to life than just going to school. There’s more to living than just the mechanics of their day and the pressures to perform and conform. And no matter how their day goes, I am with them in spirit, and God has His arms wrapped around them, no matter what happens to me during my day. They don’t have to be afraid. They will never be abandoned, even if we never see each other again. Death doesn’t mean God is absent because there’s more to life than just this life. Death is sad, and it’s healthy to feel sadness, however, loss, pain, suffering, and stress are all part of the journey as we’re passing through this world’s conduit.

When you can learn to live this life with a “just passing through” resilience, then you can use all stress for the good. You can survive times of great distress. You can live with purpose. You can live up to the life which God called. You can live knowing that if you’re in God’s hands then no one can take you from them. You can absorb any hatred, prejudice, injustice, or death by faithfully believing “not a hair on your head will be destroyed.”

When you live life in this manner, then you’re living in the Neighbor-Zone. When you’re resilient, you’re able to prioritize others’ needs over your own. You’re able to humanize others, no matter their color, creed, or culture. You’re able to slow down or stop your day regardless of your own stress and circumstances to show love and compassion to someone else. You’re being a neighbor to anyone to whom you show mercy. Showing mercy requires you to prioritize and value the other person over yourself and their needs above your own. And a prerequisite to showing mercy is mastering resilience.

Big Noble Purpose

Each and every one of us was created and redeemed for a big noble purpose. Deep down inside, we crave to become who we’re meant to be. We have trouble putting it into words and we have difficulty seeing it clearly, however, we feel it.

That’s the one big task we have to do in life, to become who we were created and redeemed to be. That’s the one big thing we must strive to do. The hard truth is we’re not that person yet. You and I are not yet who we are supposed to be. Some are farther along than others, however, the truth is we’re not there yet.

We’re made for more. One of the reasons we’re not there is too often too many of us are holding on to what’s holding us back. If we really believed that God made us in His image and likeness, if we really believed that God suffered and died for our salvation so that you and I would not be eternally separated from him, and if we really believed that God has more in store for our lives so that we can have joy in this life, then maybe we would be willing to change some things. Some parts of you and parts of me are going to have to be willingly surrendered and ruthlessly eliminated.

Is it impossible the biggest obstacle to the life that God made you for is the life you’re currently choosing? Is it impossible the biggest obstacle to the person you were created to be is the person you’re currently choosing to be? Is it impossible the things you are holding on to are the things that are holding you back?

You have a massive opportunity for growth, a massive opportunity for change, a massive opportunity for a new vision, a big noble purpose, but you can’t just add things to your life. To move forward, your new vision can’t be something you add to your plate. Ask yourself three questions:

  1. What are you going to Start?
  2. What are you going to Sustain?
  3. What are you going to Stop?

Unless you’re willing to stop some things, then whatever you start is just one more thing. It doesn’t actually change anything because you’re still holding on to the past. You’re still holding on to the thing that got you into your current situation in the first place. So before you can start something new and before you can decide to sustain what is good, you have to decide what you’re going to stop holding on to.

Here’s food for thought to serve as a catalyst to determine what to stop … stop anything that has at its root the inordinate preoccupation with what other people think about you. Rip that from your life, roots and all.

Here’s some additional food for thought that is counterintuitive … learn to lose. Life is about losing. Life is the process of repeated loss. To grow is to lose. One of the tasks of life is to learn how to lose well. When this task is aligned with the task of becoming whom we were created and redeemed to be, then you will your big noble purpose will be revealed.

Life is about losing. It is not about quitting. Persistence is the shameless refusal to quit. Losing well is about persistence. Shameless because you have nothing to prove nor hide when you’re focused on your big noble purpose as the prize.

Lose well when you are defeated. Lose well when you have nothing. Remember these words, “get up.” When you get up, you lose well.

Ignore the old voices that said quit, stop trying, stop crying, it doesn’t matter, you don’t matter. Listen to the new voices that say “get up” because life is about losing, not about quitting. You have permission to lose. You do not have permission to quit. When you have nothing left to prove, lose, or hide, that’s when God speaks into that void and speaks into your heart to “take courage and get up.”

That is the way to your big noble purpose.

Neighborly Love Podcast, Episode 20 – Hollis Haff

Ordinary People. Extraordinary Conversations.

If “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee” and “The Parable of the Good Samaritan” collided at an intersection, then the Neighborly Love podcast would be the result. It features casual conversations over coffee in a “virtual coffee shop” that lean into the power of empathy. It’s about feeling heard, valued, and understood. It’s about serving others. It’s about depositing money in our relational banks.

Neighborly Love is an original podcast by MindWolves. Host Marc Casciani, author of Craft Your Calling, interviews ordinary people about their heart for God and serving other people for the greater good.

Hollis Haff

Marc interviews Hollis Haff, Regional Representative to PA, OH & WV for The Bonhoeffer Project. Fifty years into a ministry calling, Hollis is far from finished. He was one of the pioneers of pro sports ministry and served as Chaplain of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Pirates from 1974 to 1988. He has helped to plant two churches in the Pittsburgh area and was the Founding and Senior Pastor of New Community Church in Wexford, PA.

Hollis answers three thought-provoking questions: (1) Tell me about a time when you did something nice for someone?, (2) What would you do for a living if money weren’t an issue?, and (3) Do you have a dream that involves serving others? Hollis tells a story about developing a daily discipline to love and serve others, affirms his life-long passion for disciple-making, and shares his dream of turning leaders into disciple-makers with strategic influence.

Neighborly Love, Episode 20 -Hollis Haff (4-29-22)

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Get in the Neighbor-Zone

There are some problems for which the solution is a win-win for everyone. However, they are rare. The most significant solutions are win-lose. Someone is going to lose in the short run. That’s the problem of life. You’re going to lose more often than you win. How one handles those losses make the difference in living a meaningful life versus one of emptiness and disappointment. Servant leadership (including leading yourself) is not the act of making everyone happy because that’s not possible. Rather, it’s showing up day-in, day-out to help others (who want to) get to a place where they are happy to be. No one can get there alone. We need an advocate. We need a helper.

But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.

– John 16:7, 13-15

The Holy Spirit was sent to be our Advocate. He is our Helper. He’s available to everyone, however, not everyone will seek His counsel. For some, we will open our minds and hearts to Him. For others, they will need intermediaries, their “neighbors,” to who they will listen. Jesus modeled what it was to be a neighbor because He had the Spirit of truth in Him. We have access to the same Spirit of truth and can exhibit the same behavior. When we do, we’re operating in the Neighbor-Zone. There are five actions to serve others in the Neighbor-Zone:

  1. Show up.
    • Don’t just tell people you love them. Show them. Don’t just talk the talk. Walk it. Humble yourself and meet them where they are, no matter how low that is.
  2. Make time for relationships.
    • Never be too busy to stop and care. Serve your family, colleagues at work, and neighbors in your community with intentionality.
  3. Comfort the brokenhearted.
    • Meet people in their uncertainty and fear. Don’t get frustrated by it. Consol those who are grieving. Ease doubts. Speak words of peace, love, and life.
  4. Redeem mistakes.
    • If anyone is without sin, then let them throw the first stone. The fact is, no one can make that claim. No one is perfect. No one’s value or identity should be bound to their past mistakes. Move on. Forgive. God reconciled us to himself through Jesus and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.
  5. Instruct and empower.
    • “Go and do likewise.” That was the command Jesus gave to get in the Neighbor-Zone. It was the response to the question, “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” He was referencing how the Good Samaritan treated the beaten man found on the side of the road … with compassion, mercy, and grace.

By taking these action steps, you will enter the Neighbor-Zone, a way of life that reveals the secret thread that forges friendship despite enormous differences in class, temperament, culture, race, sensibility, and personal history. A friendship that is about something. An underlying commonality that builds the most powerful, cohesive team. When you get in the Neighbor-Zone, you genuinely humanize others and are able to serve them as Jesus served when he walked the earth.

Working in the Neighbor-Zone

I believe in one God, Creator of the universe. That He governs it by His providence. That He ought to be worshiped. That the most acceptable service we render to Him is doing good to His other children.

That the soul of man is immortal and will be treated with justice in another life respecting its covenant in this.

These I take to be the fundamental principles of all sound religion, and I regard them in whatever sect I meet with them.

– Benjamin Franklin’s Creed

Benjamin Franklin was far from perfect. No mere human is. However, I find the creed by which he lived very inviting. Some might call it neighborly. In Philadelphia, PA, Ben Franklin’s adopted hometown, they call it brotherly. Whenever I’m tempted to discredit someone’s accomplishments because of their mistakes, failures, or sin, I’m reminded of a story in the Bible about a woman caught in adultery.

At dawn he (Jesus) appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.

But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.

At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”

“No one, sir,” she said.

“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

– John 8:2-11 (NIV)

When I’m tempted to judge someone because of their sin, I recall this story. In the back of my mind, I replay the statement Jesus said to the Pharisees, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Whenever I do this, I am unable to throw a stone.

Imagine living and working every day with this humble perspective. Let’s label it as working in the neighbor-zone. It makes me want to “go and do likewise.” In this context, “work” is not just your occupation, but entails every aspect of your life as a parent, sibling, spouse, friend, colleague, volunteer, and community member.

Jesus was a model worker. He tirelessly worked in the neighbor-zone. He was diligent, but not a workaholic. He knew how to pause, rest, and recharge to live up to the life which God called Him to live. He formed good daily work habits as He went about His Father’s business.

A sure approach to finding out what God wishes us to do is to emulate Jesus by working faithfully and conscientiously at the tasks that fall into our hands, always watching for the guidance that God will surely send our way. We shall never miss God’s call as long as we are on the path of duty in the neighbor-zone.

We may not clearly see where we are being led, but we can be certain that doing our present work as well and as thoroughly as possible is the best training for anything the future may hold for us. We are not above any work that falls in the neighbor-zone, even though it may seem to be useless and unimportant. Over and over, it is remarkable how things which at the time seemed to be of no importance turn out to be useful in shaping our character and purpose. In hindsight, when we reflect on the experience received, unconscious of its value at the moment, proved valuable fertilizer for the Fruit of the Spirit that God wanted to grow in our hearts.

Don’t allow pride, selfishness, or judgementalism to rob you of the joy of working in the neighbor-zone. We are all flawed and sinners, but we are all wired to derive pleasure from our work. When we work in the neighbor-zone, the joy from every job well done will take us into deeper fellowship with our Creator and our neighbors.

Finding Happiness in the Neighbor-Zone

The pursuit of happiness is an unalienable right with which we are endowed by our Creator. That is a self-evident truth as stated in the Declaration of Independence of the United States of America. It’s as true today as it was in 1776.

As with any pursuit, it’s always helpful to know where you’re going. Without an aiming point, we tend to wander and fall prey to temptations we believe will make us happy. Those distractions only lead to disappointment and greater distance from that in which true happiness is found.

Since we are created in the image of Nature’s God, it’s worth exploring where and how He experienced happiness. As He was creating the world, God experienced happiness after He created something good. In the book of Genesis, scripture describes God as pausing six times. In each pause, He found satisfaction with His work. This is the first evidence of job satisfaction, and therefore, we can see that job satisfaction is a holy and godly emotion. We are wired to derive pleasure from our work just as God derived pleasure from His work.

Where was God’s happiness found? In creating something for the benefit of humankind. Just as God’s satisfaction was found in serving others, we too are happiest when we create something for the benefit of others. In other words, we are happiest when we are serving our “neighbors” with our work efforts. In this context, happiness is not something we chase after, but rather something that is caught when we pause to recognize God’s goodness in it. When we view our work this way, we operate in the Neighbor-Zone.

The opposite of the Neighbor-Zone is the Selfish-Zone. When someone is working in the Selfish-Zone, they are faithless, self-seeking, ungrateful, deny God’s goodness, and rob God of His glory by stealing it for their own self-interest. They become greedy, envyous, jealous, restless, and deeply unhappy. They are never satisfied in their pursuit of happiness.

When someone is working in the Neighbor-Zone, they are faithful, selfless, humble, grateful, and give God the credit. They become more and more generous, giving, peaceful, and satisfied as they serve others. When we’re operating in the Neighbor-Zone, our work and the pleasure from every job well done will take us deeper into fellowship with our Creator.

In the Neighbor-Zone, happiness is not something pursued but found.

The American Nightmare

The American Dream is a national ethos of the United States, the set of ideals in which freedom includes the opportunity for prosperity, success, and upward social mobility achieved through hard work. It is the belief that anyone, regardless of where they were born or what class they were born into, can attain their own version of success. The American Dream is rooted in the Declaration of Independence, which proclaims that “all men are created equal” with the right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

The old American Dream was the dream of the Puritans, of Benjamin Franklin’s “Poor Richard,” of men and women content to accumulate their modest fortunes a little at a time, year by year by year. The current American Dream seems to be of men and women not content to accumulate slowly, but rather craving instant wealth, won in a twinkling by audacity and good luck, at the expense of others. It seems like Americans perceive the Dream as a Lottery, which is actually a Nightmare from which we need to wake up.

Martin Luther King Jr., in his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” (1963) eloquently stated:

We will win our freedom because the sacred heritage of our nation and the eternal will of God are embodied in our echoing demands. (page 848 in attached PDF)

One day the South will know that when these disinherited children of God sat down at lunch counters they were in reality standing up for what is best in the American dream and for the most sacred values in our Judeo-Christian heritage, thereby bringing our nation back to those great wells of democracy which were dug deep by the Founding Fathers in their formulation of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. (page 849 in attached PDF)

Martin Luther King, Jr., Letter from a Birmingham Jail

Just as with African-Americans’ quest for the American Dream at the heart of the civil rights movement, our quest today is still to fight for all disinherited children of God. That is the only way to wake up from this nightmare and bring our nation back to those great wells of democracy which were dug deep by the Founding Fathers.

Do we really understand how far the American Dream is from God’s dream for us? We need to view our work as an avenue to live out God’s purpose for our lives, not hit the American Lottery. Our work is one of the primary ways in which we love our neighbors and serve the world. Understanding that every day our workplace and neighborhood present us with opportunities to either work for God or ourselves is essential to resolving the tension and discord that exists in America today.

The “Pursuit of Happiness” in our work is a holy emotion and an inherently good thing designed by God to reveal His character as we love and serve others. It is rooted in the Selfless-Zone, not the Selfish-Zone. We inherited it from God when we were created in His image. Because of this, ambition for our work which drives our hustle is a good thing when it’s accompanied by trusting and glorifying God, not ourselves.

Neighborly Love Podcast, Episode 19 – Rev. Paul T. Abernathy, MPIA, MDiv

Ordinary People. Extraordinary Conversations.

If “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee” and “The Parable of the Good Samaritan” collided at an intersection, then the Neighborly Love podcast would be the result. It features casual conversations over coffee in a “virtual coffee shop” that lean into the power of empathy. It’s about feeling heard, valued, and understood. It’s about serving others. It’s about depositing money in our relational banks.

Neighborly Love is an original podcast by MindWolves. Host Marc Casciani, author of Craft Your Calling, interviews ordinary people about their heart for God and serving other people for the greater good.

Rev. Paul T. Abernathy, MPIA, MDiv

Marc interviews Rev. Paul T. Abernathy, CEO at Neighborhood Resilience Project and author of The Prayer of a Broken Heart: An Orthodox Christian Reflection on African American Spirituality. Rev. Paul answers three thought-provoking questions: (1) Tell me about a time when you did something nice for someone?, (2) What would you do for a living if money weren’t an issue?, and (3) Do you have a dream that involves serving others? Father Paul tells a story about feeding hungry children in Pittsburgh’s Hill District, affirms how and why he found his calling and shares his dream for trauma-informed community development. Father Paul has a passion for creating resilient healing and healthy communities, one block at a time, which is rooted in the Gospel and teaching of the Orthodox Church and inspired by the Civil Rights Movement in America during the 1950s & 1960s.

Neighborly Love, Episode 19 – Rev. Paul T. Abernathy, MPIA, MDiv (3-29-22)

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The Problem with Grace

Mister Fred Rogers

When you think about the day-to-day mechanics of life, certainly in America and most of the modern world, how would you answer the question, “Who is the greatest?

Did you think about something along the lines …

  • The team who won.
  • The athlete who had the most points.
  • The student who was valedictorian.
  • The man who was salesperson of the year.
  • The black woman who climbed the corporate ladder, smashed the glass ceiling and became CEO.

In other words, the one who came out on top.

Or, did you think about something like this …

The one who, by their willing service, helped others come out on top.

Sadly, most of us would have thought the former, not the latter. Why? It’s because we have an honor deficit.

The normal way of life, generally speaking, is one based on merit. Our socioeconomic system is based on performance and earning our keep. The “what have you done for me lately?” mindset is ubiquitous in corporate America. If one achieves, one is rewarded. If you do not achieve or work for your earnings, then you fall short of the honor and rewards that come with that. That’s the honor deficit. Moreover, the honor deficit becomes intrinsically linked to a person’s identity and value. That’s actually more than sad. It’s a sin.

What’s the appropriate response to the honor deficit? Ignore it. Enable it. Widen it and create a deeper chasm between the “honorable” and the “dishonorable?” Alternatively, should we acknowledge it and teach grace as a solution? I say let’s teach grace, and there’s a Hebrew word that captures the spirit of grace in action, chesed.

The word chesed (pronounced hess-ed) means kindness or love between people. It is traditionally translated as “loving-kindness.” It is taking action on behalf of someone who needs mercy, compassion, love, and grace, and taking action means “walking the walk.”

  • Loving someone who needs love.
  • Giving mercy to someone who needs mercy.
  • Giving forgiveness to someone who needs forgiveness.
  • Being kind to those who need kindness.

The problem with grace is that it’s unfair. Why should a homeless person or welfare recipient receive my hard-earned money if they chose not to work? Have you ever thought this? The alarm on my fairness meter sounds. How unfair, unjust. What about the investment of time, effort, energy, money, and hard work it took me to get to this quality of life? What about all the real and perceived odds I had to overcome? Whenever I find myself thinking like this, the Holy Spirit reminds me that I would be nothing if it were not for God. The Spirit helps me turn off my fairness alarm pretty quickly. The reality is we’re all bums who have not earned one thing we enjoy. I was a panhandler at an intersection when Christ gave me the bread of life to eat. Who am I to deny grace a fellow human created in God’s image, when I myself was redeemed by God’s grace.

God does not assign honor to those with certain gifts, economic status, or even ethnicity. Those that lack honor are the ones who qualify for special honor. Those with an honor deficit are at the front of the line from God’s perspective, and we are called to give them even greater honor.

Don’t just take my word for it. Jesus himself tells a parable about it in the Bible.

When he noticed how the guests picked the places of honor at the table, he told them this parable: “When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for a person more distinguished than you may have been invited. If so, the host who invited both of you will come and say to you, ‘Give this person your seat.’ Then, humiliated, you will have to take the least important place. But when you are invited, take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up to a better place.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all the other guests. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

Luke 14:7-11 NIV

The next time you find yourself patting yourself on the back, or arguing about who is considered the greatest, remember true greatness is not being above others, lording over them, or exercising authority over them. We are not to be like that. Rather, the greatest among us should be like the least, and the one who leads like the one who serves.

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