Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed


Is Image Everything? 6

posted by xscot mcknight

“Christians talk about hating sin and loving sinners, but the way they go about things, they might as well call it what it is. They hate the sin and the sinner” — from Jeff in unChristian.
“To be judgmental is to point out something that is wrong in someone else’s life, making the person feel put down, excluded, and marginalized” (182).
Who has some wisdom for us on this one?
9 of 10 young outsiders think this way of Christians. “When you introduce yourself to a twentysomething neighbor, and you mention your faith, chances are he or she will think of you as jugmental” (183). 53% of young Christians agree with them.
1 of 5 outsiders see the church as a loving environment. Fewer than half of churchgoers think the church is loving. 75% of pastors think their church is loving.
Insight from the book: “But what if our judgmental attitudes are just posturing to look good to other believers?” (186). I see this in WatchBlogs, for whom it seems to me the audience of self-congratulations by others is what drives their caustic remarks about others. Instead of concern to help someone, they are more concerned to prove they are right and the true preservers of the faith. (Fidelity is a virtue; fidelity as an act of self-justification is obnoxious.)
Four forms of judgmentalism:
1. Wrong verdict: sometimes Christians get it wrong.
2. Wrong timing
3. Wrong motivation
4. Playing favorites
Guidelines that are less judgmental:
1. Listen
2. Avoid labels
3. Don’t be so smart
4. Put yourself in my place
5. Be genuine
6. Be my friend
Good book.



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BenH

posted November 8, 2007 at 5:51 am


Interesting timing. We just finish studying Psalms 51 and 2 Samuel 11-12 as backdrop. One of our conversations centered on the importance of Nathan in this story. No Nathan, no repentant David, no Psalm 51, no story of restoration. So it would appear as though balance is in order.



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Jamie Arpin-Ricci

posted November 8, 2007 at 7:12 am


I know how much more willing I am to hear about my mistakes from those that I know love me, know me and have my best in mind. Ignoring sin is not acceptable, but I think we sometimes put the cart before the horse. When morality trumps relationship, judgment is inevitable.
Peace,
Jamie



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RJS

posted November 8, 2007 at 7:50 am


Scot,
What is meant by #3. “Don’t be so smart”?



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Scot McKnight

posted November 8, 2007 at 7:53 am


RJS,
Pretend we know everything.



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Michelle Van Loon

posted November 8, 2007 at 8:25 am


I really liked the book as well. One of its great strengths was its tone: the authors wrote with an air of teachability/humility. In fact, your “less judgemental” guidelines #1-6 capture the tone of the book perfectly.



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RJS

posted November 8, 2007 at 8:46 am


Its a great list of guidelines.



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Mark E

posted November 8, 2007 at 9:44 am


No being so smart means, for me, the acknowledgement that I speak from a certain perspective and that I could be wrong or at least not have all the light there is to have on a subject.
“Hate the sin not the sinner.” As if we can really separate the actions of a person from who that person is. It seems to me that the main emphasis of the Sermon on the Mount is on how our actions (and our lifestyles) define who we truly are.
For example, can I really “hate” and condemn the homosexual lifestyle of a friend of mine without hating him. He says, “no.” Because it is who he is. He knows that from my perspective as I read the bible that homosexual lifestyles are not really part of God’s intentions [i.e. sin]. He disagrees with my understanding and we still can seek to understand each other’s perspective without having to feel that we have to convince the other person that “I am right” and therefore you are wrong. Of course, my friendship reminds me that there are plenty of things that I and all the Christians (at least that I know) ignore and fail to do that could easily be classified as sin (an example here might be how we all tend “play favorites”).
I like this list. It is very helpful tool and reminder.
In Christ,
Mark E



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MatthewS

posted November 8, 2007 at 9:49 am


I think one of the reasons Christians come across so strongly and so judgementally is an over-emphasis on the war metaphor at the expense of other working metaphors in the NT. Some examples: vine and branches, nursing mother, farmer, fruit, walking, friend, family, servant, the list goes on.
Some teachers seem to make “soldier” the controlling metaphor to which all the others must submit.
But by this mindset, it is primary that we not lose to the enemy. The enemy wants us to sin. Homosexuality is a sin. In this case, someone who has gay tendencies is no longer a fellow human, they are an agent from the enemy sent to infiltrate and subvert. What do you do to such an agent in war? You shoot them! They are the enemy! In this way, the sinner has become just as much the enemy as the sin and the soldier is obligated to attack.



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MatthewS

posted November 8, 2007 at 9:50 am


I meant to say “some Christians” – not “Christians” in my opening line above.



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ChrisB

posted November 8, 2007 at 10:17 am


I’ve got a friend who got into an inappropriate relationship and ended up moving to another city to get out of it. She’s concerned about making friends at church because of what could happen if anyone were to find out about her past. Unfortunately she has reason. We all sin, but as a culture we’ve picked out a few to be unforgivable.
At the same time, I think it is possible to “Hate the sin not the sinner.” I do it all the time with my kids. It’s more difficult with other people, though, and navigating it takes more care.



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MatthewS

posted November 8, 2007 at 10:23 am


ChrisB, your comment reminded me of the Wisdom Hunter books by Randall Arthur. Good stories!



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Nathan

posted November 8, 2007 at 10:35 am


Gregory Boyd’s book Repenting of Religion (Turning from Judgment to the Love of God) was incredibly helpful to me in this area. I thought he was able to keep the balance between not judging and still seeking to become communities that deal with sin. His point, I believe, is that it is only after we really love someone, we trust them, they trust us, we know them, they know us, that a relationship develops that keeps us grounded in love as we interact with a friend who might find themselves stuck in sin. He doesn’t shy away from preaching on sin, yet in direct interaction with people he says that it is out of committed communities of people (small groups) that we are abel to deal with sin in loving rather than judgmental ways.



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Brad Cooper

posted November 8, 2007 at 11:29 am


This is such an important topic; and the book and comments above are right on.
We can’t just wink at sin. And there are times when sin must be confronted. There are other times when it is not our job at all to confront sin: “What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside….” (1 Cor. 5:12-13).
Chris #10,
Great example of our relationship with our kids as hating the sin but loving the sinner.



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mike m

posted November 8, 2007 at 11:37 am


there are many parables that speak to the nature of the kingdom (gospel) in terms of invitation. inviting and serving the “undesirables” with no thought of their status or station in life, including whether they are “in” or “out.”
with this in mind we must approach our interaction with ALL people with humility and grace. i would posit that unbelievers should be counted as our enemies and yet our response to our enemies is love and sacrifice remembering that we were once enemies of Christ.
incarnational living demands us to reserve judgment on our enemies.
spurring one another on to good works (ie. accountablity) is another matter altogether and shouldn’t be confused with judgment of unbelivers.



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Bob Brague

posted November 8, 2007 at 12:08 pm


Mike (#7), Chris (#10) beat me to what I was going to say about your statement, “As if we can really separate the actions of a person from who that person is.” But I’ll say it anyway.
Of course we can. We do it with our own children all the time (maybe you don’t have any). And I believe we love them in spite of what they sometimes do because they are our offspring, “bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh” as it were, family, blood relatives. Laban said it to his nephew, Jacob (Gen. 29) and David said it concerning the elders of Judah (2 Sam. 19). In my opinion, it’s how Jesus must look at every human being. Since He is related to us all by blood, it is easy for Him to hate the sin and love the sinner. And He sets the pattern for us to follow.



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MattR

posted November 8, 2007 at 12:09 pm


This is good.
I’ve become more and more convinced (through observing myself and others) it is almost impossible for humans to “hate the sin but love the sinner.”
Sure, we can (and should) hate ‘sin’ & evil in a general sense, and especially hate the destructive effects these cause. But when it comes to sin in the personal sense (which is what the statement almost always means), we don’t have the wisdom and judgement God does… hating sin usually becomes reduced to just hating.
How about just, “love sinners!” (which=everyone)
The image problem the book describes here is very real…
As I talk to people, most when they hear the word Christian think, judgmental (in the worst sense of the word- as described in this post).



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Bob Brague

posted November 8, 2007 at 12:09 pm


Excuse me, I meant Mark, not Mike!



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Scot McKnight

posted November 8, 2007 at 12:19 pm


I don’t want to jump in here but I posted about this before. The problem with “love the sinner and hate the sin” is that the person is identified with the sin.
We love the Eikon, the human being made in God’s image, regardless. We love them because they are there, because they are our neighbor, because we know them….



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MattR

posted November 8, 2007 at 12:22 pm


Scot (#18), that’s what I was trying to say…
Of course you said it better.



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Randy Holl

posted November 8, 2007 at 1:10 pm


Good stuff here…but it is always a struggle to not, in some way, “exclude” others with whom we disagree or whose behavior we cannot deal with, to place them in an untouchable “other” category. Too many Christians, myself included, have totally forgotten about the “love your enemies” passage. Ironically, most non-Christians are more familiar with it, and recognize the difference in our behavior as judgment or hate. This book sounds good, I’d better take a look.



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mariam

posted November 8, 2007 at 1:12 pm


#14 “i would posit that unbelievers should be counted as our enemies”
If that were the case I wouldn’t have any friends or family as they are almost all unbelievers, including my husband and children. My definition of enemy is a lot narrower. In fact, if we truly love our “enemy” the enemy is no longer our enemy, which I think was Jesus’ point.



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ChrisB

posted November 8, 2007 at 1:21 pm


The last time this came up here I was reminded that our rules don’t apply to outsiders. “Hate the sin not the sinner” is difficult when you’re worried about how to loving correct sinners. But we don’t need to correct outsiders.
Other believers need to be corrected gently and lovingly, but not non-Christians. Of course, the problem is “cultural” Christians. They say they’re believers, so do we correct them or leave them alone? The cultural Christians are the ones who cause the most problems: They go to church when they feel like it, live however they want, and if you say anything you’re “judging” them.
What do we do about those folks?



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mariam

posted November 8, 2007 at 1:33 pm


#20
“Too many Christians, myself included, have totally forgotten about the ?love your enemies? passage. Ironically, most non-Christians are more familiar with it, and recognize the difference in our behavior as judgment or hate.”
Exactly. I think that often non-Christians are very familiar with what Christianity is supposed to be about. “let he is is without sin cast the first stone” and “love your enemies” and “judge not and you will not be judged” are very much what they think Christians should be practising and when we don’t we are judged and found wanting (as Christ warns us). Some Christians think that non-believers are “afraid” of the message because they don’t want to give up their “sins”. I have never met a non-believer who rejected the Christian message on those grounds and I don’t know why they would worry about that. 1. they don’t believe in God’s judgment and 2. it is not as if most Christians have given up their sins. I’ve met lots of non-Christians who admire Christ but as Ghandi said have found Christians “so unlike your Christ”.



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Jennifer

posted November 8, 2007 at 1:45 pm


I think part of “dont be so smart” means that we are willing to learn from those we want to judge.
I remember hearing an interview last year with John Gottman (the Univ of WA researcher who can predict, with amazing success, which couples will stay together based on analyzing a 15 min interaction between the couple)…He is doing new research on homosexual couples, and found that as a group they had some ways of relating that were superior to heterosexual couples. It made me really wonder if a heterosexual Christian could be humble enough with her homosexual neighbor to learn something about relationships ? and made me wonder what doors that would open if she could.



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mariam

posted November 8, 2007 at 1:52 pm


#22 Chris
Do these “cultural Christians” have bibles and access to Christian thinking? Or are they illiterate and don’t have access to Christian teaching?
Do you feel you need to be confronted aboaut all your sins or do you think you are pretty much aware of them and are trying to work on the, with God’s grace?



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mike m

posted November 8, 2007 at 4:21 pm


#21 miriam,
that’s exactly my point. Jesus WAS subverting the world’s definition of enemy by redefining it in a light of love and sacrifice.
they are enemies only in the sense that they are unbelievers and they are “on a different side.” remember, Jesus was speaking into a context of roman occupation and the “enemy” was easily recognized by 1st century jews. so now that we have a redefined treatment of enemies because of Jesus we are able to have an attitude of love, sacrifice, invitation and inclusion no matter who our enemy is or what our enemy does.



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Tim

posted November 8, 2007 at 4:24 pm


Are unchristians and christian alike being judemental when they make a judgment that certain “christians” are being judgmental? We all make finite judgments about everything. I think it is the manner and tone (hopefully Christlike)in which we do them that is crucial.



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Scot McKnight

posted November 8, 2007 at 4:38 pm


Tim at #27,
Most of us agree that the word “judgmental” is always bad but there is a good sense to the word “judgment.” Because the latter word has taken on the tone of the former, I prefer to use the word “discerning/discernment” for the good sense of rendering judgment. Maybe that will help.
Discernment nearly always connotes wisdom rather than censoriousness or judgmentalism.
I’ve been at this computer since 7am today banging way at the edits I got from Lil Copan, so I’m off now for awhile so I can get our salad and dinner a bit ready.



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mariam

posted November 8, 2007 at 6:03 pm


#26 Mike,
OK, I think I understand what you are saying. It is hard for me to wrap my head around your statement. Perhaps I don’t understand your definition of “enemy”. It is different for Americans, I think, where you think of yourself as mostly Christian. Except for my church I barely know any Christians – at least none that would be defined as Christians on this site:) I find it hard to think of my family, friends and neighbours as “enemies” by any stretch of the word. I think of an enemy as someone who is out to do me or my family real harm, not someone who disagrees with me or has a different faith. Most non-believers don’t wish harm on Christians, or Muslims or Sikhs. They just want them to leave them alone. I might think of a terrorist trying to blow up my plane as an enemy. It took me a long time to stop thinking of my daughter’s molester, who was a self-proclaimed Christian BTW, as other than enemy and loving him is pretty hard. Loving my atheist husband and son is quiet easy. For me believer/non-believer is not the issue. If non-believers are my enemy then I am theirs and I don’t see how I could then be welcoming if I had that somewhere in my mind. I do agree with you that Jesus subverted the idea of enemy.



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mariam

posted November 8, 2007 at 6:07 pm


CHris #22,25
Chris, I was snippy in my comment to you. I apologize. As Tim says we all have to work on being non-judgmental.
Peace



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ChrisB

posted November 8, 2007 at 7:54 pm


Mariam:
No worries.
Do these ?cultural Christians? have bibles and access to Christian thinking?
Probably. What they might not have access to is a regenerate heart and an indwelling Spirit. Do they do wrong because they’re not saved or because they’re just in sin? It’s hard to discern and not really ours to say, but it creates a lot of problems.
Do you feel you need to be confronted about all your sins…
Usually no, occasionally yes. The friend I mentioned above stayed in the sinful relationship for a year. She needed our love, support, and prayers to extricate herself. But I’ve known folks who needed a swift kick in the rear more than love and support.



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Krista

posted November 8, 2007 at 9:15 pm


One guy that I work with commented, “People need to learn that personal convictions are just that– personal.” Is that true in every case?



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nancy

posted November 8, 2007 at 10:00 pm


well…sounds like i could be good.
and i think that we get very good at pretending that we know everything.
i like that one…don’t be so smart.
sometimes the young Christian can feel discouraged when seeing all those old believers looking so smart…they are very likely to believe it you know! and even worse it is likely that the old believer may begin to believe it also! :-)



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Brad Cooper

posted November 8, 2007 at 11:04 pm


Mariam #30,
(Hopefully you’re the same Mariam that I conversed with in the Red Letter Christian section. If not, please ignore this.)
I was at work tonight and the Holy Spirit made me realize that I had been unfair to you in our conversation within the Red Letter Christian section. I accused you of being arrogant. I did it in a roundabout and apologetic way, but nonetheless, I did.
I feel very strongly about the issue we were discussing, but there are many ways to come about the opinion that you hold that do not include arrogance. More than that, in your conversation with me, I cannot remember anything that indicated arrogance of any kind. In fact, it was quite obvious that you are a very sincere believer, seeking to please our Lord with the way you live your life.
I feel that I dishonored you, Scot, and our Lord. For that I’m truly sorry.
I know Scot recently wrote about people that wear his patience thin. I sincerely hope that I am not among them. Scot is doing an amazing service for the Church with this website and it’s obvious how hard he works at it. I would hate to think that I am among those who steal any of the joy from that or that hinder in any way what he is seeking to accomplish here.
Please accept my apology.
May the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus be with you.



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mike m

posted November 8, 2007 at 11:09 pm


#29 mariam,
i apologize, i just noticed that i spelled your name wrong in my first reply to you… i was too quick and no disrespect meant at all.
you are, of course, correct in the normal definition of enemy as someone who wishes harm on you and my point is really just hair-splitting when the reality of our situation is one where we are called to love ALL others; friends, neighbors and enemies.
blessings



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Dianne P

posted November 8, 2007 at 11:18 pm


I agree w/ so many here – I love the “don’t be so smart” point.
Sometimes I cringe when I’m in a bible study or discussion, especially with those new to study who are asking the big picture questions. There’s always someone (or several, tripping all over each other) to show that they know just the right answer. And if they’re really good, w/ chapter and verse thrown in for good measure. I picture a classroom of little smartypants, hands waving, shouting, each trying to out-answer the others – all before the teacher has even finished the question. Wasn’t one of our other discussions here about Christians being too quick w/ answers to questions that it seems they haven’t really heard?
When I read the gospels and Jesus’ chastisement of the pharisees, sometimes I picture Him saying “Don’t be so smart.” Just put all your hands down and wait for me to finish the question.
Not too long ago, I headed up a small group of women who were “new to bible study”. I cherished their questions. Their questions blew me away and rocked my world. One thing we did was give plenty of time for the questions, plenty of time for discussion of the questions, plenty of time for everyone to chime in with their thoughts – all this before I gave the standard answers. But even then, it was w/ acknowledgment that these answers were really often simply the best we could do w/ our limited understanding of God.
As James put it so well, be quick to listen and slow to speak.



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mariam

posted November 9, 2007 at 4:31 am


#34 Brad
I actually enjoyed our conversation and came away from it with good feelings – but then I am a bit oblivious at times – an eternal optimist. I like to understand why people think the way they do. It is hard to disrespect or dislike people when they have opened themselves up and discussed what is important to them in honesty and with a desire to be understood. I didn’t feel dishonoured or insulted (it takes a lot more than arguments over theology to wound my soul (LOL) so no need to apologize. Seriously, while I know we disagree on a lot of points of theology, I appreciated you taking the time to explain your position and I thought your humility and compassion became must more evident as the conversation went on. I also understood a little more where you were coming from. As for arrogance, I think I do slip into it sometimes when I become more interested in getting my point across than listening to what the other person has to say. Also, as I think I’ve mentioned I live with a couple of academic atheists who love to argue and sometimes their style might rub off on me. I wasn’t trying to do that, but I do forget myself at times.
Where I am coming from is that I am a relatively new Christian living with and working with dearly beloved non-believers. I don’t have a Christian background (at least not so as you’d recognize it). When I decided that secular humanism was working for me I considered other faiths as well as Christianity but now I have chosen a path and I am proceeding cautiously but steadily ahead. I go to a church where we do have a liturgy and we do say the Apostle’s Creed but individuals are pretty much free to bring their own interpretations and our beliefs are to some extent considered private and between ourselves and God. I know that for some in my church who were born and raised Anglican the liturgy may have become a bit automatic but it is new and beautiful to me and I feel very close to God during communal worship. Our faith is centred more on personal transformation combined with active expression through a variety of social ministries than through adherence to a set of doctrines, which is just as well since we’d never agree on a set of doctrines in any case. I pray and read the Bible everyday at some point. When I read scripture I do not read it with any particular doctrinal system or tradition in place – well of course I am coming from an academic and until recently secular background, so I imagine that still affects how I perceive things. Sometimes I am surprised by what I read, sometimes comforted, sometimes confused and sometimes challenged. I do read writings by other Christians to help me clarify things. Sometimes I pick up and examine a bit of theology and it resonates with me and makes sense and I decide to keep it. Other times I pick it up, consider it and put it back. So far I have about 5 or 6 items in my credo bag so it’s still quite light and easy to carry.
I am touched that you were worried about my feelings, but they weren’t in any way hurt.
Peace to you too.



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mariam

posted November 9, 2007 at 4:34 am


I meant in second paragraph “secular humanism WAS NOT working for me”



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Brad Cooper

posted November 9, 2007 at 8:35 am


Mariam #37 & 38,
Thanks for responding. It is truly a relief to me that my words did not wound you in any way. Last night at work, I was feeling like a real jerk.
I do enjoy a good theological debate. But occasionally I get caught up in my passion for an issue and I cross a line that love should not cross.
I, too, truly enjoyed the conversation. It’s very evident that Jesus Christ is manifest in your life and in your thinking.
Again thanks for relieving my mind. Have a great weekend. Peace.



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tom

posted November 10, 2007 at 7:48 am


I know I’m a little behind on this conversation, but I think we’d do well to remember that ‘Love the sinner, hate the sin’ is something attributed to the sayings of Ghandi, not Jesus. How great the Kingdom would be if we’d simply ‘love the sinner’.
just a thought.



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