The Biblical Basis For Women In Combat

[From the archives.]

***

Female vets cheer new era for women in combat: ‘It’s about time!’ said the headline yesterday. The U.S. military is dropping the prohibition on women in combat assignments, opening these up for all qualified members of the armed services. Just what “qualified” means remains to be worked out, but the days of meaningless distinctions – arguments like “A woman can’t do a man’s job, any man’s job” – are over.

Women in Combat (Department of Defense)

Women in Combat
(Department of Defense)

This announcement follows other changes in the way our armed forces look on their members. In late 2010, Congress set in motion the repeal of the ban on openly gay people serving in the military, with the judiciary then ruling that the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy was in fact unenforceable and the President formally announcing its repeal soon after. Even earlier, President Truman ordered the military to desegregate the ranks so that African Americans and other minority personnel could serve in all capacities alongside all other members.

Of course, all these formal actions in some way merely reflect reality. African Americans have been serving in the military throughout this country’s history. So have gay Americans. And women are not only in combat situations every day overseas, even if their job title doesn’t reflect it, but have been on the front lines from the beginning.

Like the headline said, it’s about time we removed these discriminating limitations. Yet my point here is not to insist that the Bible requires women take on combat duties. It’s about how these issues lead to a better understanding of the type of battle we are all called to fight in the kingdom of God.

Serving in God’s Kingdom

There’s a kids’ song at church that we used to sing with the younger Sunday School classes.

I may never march in the infantry
Ride in the cavalry
Shoot the Artillery
I may never fly o’er the enemy
But I’m in the Lord’s army

It has hand motions for marching and riding and shooting and flying and saluting, and it’s cute to see all the little boys and girls singing along and marching like little soldiers. Of course, it’s important to remember that the armor of God does not look like something worn on the front lines today, and that our battle is not against flesh and blood but against spiritual forces. But I really like this song for how it points out that all of us who belong to Christ are in this battle together – women, men, boys and girls – because in him there is no male or female.

Does that mean that women are exactly the same as men? That’s like asking if all men are exactly like one another and whether all women are exactly like each other as well. Instead, much like the military now intending to identify the qualifications for various combat positions, we do things in God’s kingdom according to our abilities.

And through it all, God does immeasurably more in us than we could ever hope to achieve.

Now that’s the way to serve.

***

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The Amputation Of Fear

[Today's guest post is from Laura Droege, a wonderful writer whose insights always build me up in knowledge and wisdom.]

***

Throughout my life, fear has dragged me down.

It’s like having a third leg: unnecessary, but attached so well that I can’t tell the difference between it and my legs. So I lug fear around, letting it determine my pace, and stare, wide-eyed, at people who run.

I need an amputation.

God must agree, because He keeps sending me one message, over and over: Fear not, for I am with you.

It started with a job opening. A part-time position as blog editor was available. I read the job requirements; I might be qualified. But the third leg stomped on the ground, diverting my attention, and my confidence wobbled.

This was mid-week, and the deadline for applying was Saturday. There wasn’t time to dilly-dally in my decision. I had to act now. So I wrote a blog post, describing my fear, and convinced myself that I was confident enough to submit my resume.

I wrote: Bring on the application.

But I didn’t start working on it immediately. First, a message from my mother had to be answered, even though no phone conversation with her ever lasts under ten minutes. This time, it was an hour and ten minutes. In all fairness, though, she had a disturbing story about a friend (whom I know) and her young relative (whom I don’t know). I listened, offered what insights I had about the mental health care system (namely, how messed up it is), and hung up, my heart heavy for the young girl.

The story followed me. I looked at my resume, muttering about how incompetent I look on paper, and I remembered the story.

This girl wasn’t my target audience, nor was she likely to ever come across this blog to which I was applying. But there are people in similar circumstances who might, possibly, stumble on this blog, and it might, possibly, point them to hope: Life will not always be this bad. One ray of light drives away darkness. Search for that one ray, even when it cannot be seen now.

Cheered by these thoughts, I kept going. The resume had improved; I still had to write a cover letter. But now my work day had ended, my children needed to be rescued from school, I had to fix dinner and clean up dinner and finish the laundry and fold the laundry and— I was procrastinating. I knew it. Fear tingled, that extra leg waking up from slumber.

The next morning, I plopped my rear in my desk chair. I vowed not to rise from the chair until that cover letter was finished. Two hours later, the letter was finished. But I still didn’t hit “submit.” (Procrastinating again.) I had a “works published” section on my resume. I had claimed familiarity with the Chicago Manual of Style, which is both true and a job requirement. Shouldn’t I have listed the items according to the Chicago method?

I dragged out the orange-covered 15th edition of Chicago and realized that they don’t cover electronic journals or blogs. Logged on the internet. Searched for the 16th edition. Found what I needed.

In between, I did laundry, refereed my kids, cleaned the kitchen and my bathroom, supervised the kids cleaning their bathroom . . . Obviously, a dirty sink was more urgent than a complete resume. (Or so my fear said.) A dirty kitchen wouldn’t laugh at my cover letter, and a pile of laundry wouldn’t raise an eyebrow at the fourteen-year-long gap in my employment history.

Please, God, I prayed. Please. I wasn’t sure what I was praying or what I wanted. Please.

At three o’clock, I hit “submit.”

The fear didn’t leave.

I had to deal with it. So I did the only thing I knew to do: wrote. I wrote through the questions, sought answers, and stumbled over a crucial question. Why do I write?

Because it reveals the truth. Picasso famously defined art as “the lie that tells the truth.” It isn’t real—thus it’s a lie—but it reveals the truth. The truth sets us free. Freedom is good; hope is good; the response to the resulting blog post is good. All my thoughts converged and sliced through part of my fear.

But only part. It was still there, dangling.

I was totally sick of thinking about fear. But God wasn’t through with the subject.

I went to a meeting of the school ladies association. These are the folks who raise gobs of money for our private school. They’re the competent, confident, and take charge-ish sort of people. Not the fearful types. Not like me.

The president mentioned that the book fair, coming up in late September, still needed a chair. Push, shove, push, shove— God, I argued silently, I am not the chair-of-anything type. It usually involves telephones and telling people what to do, and I’m afraid of that. Remember my phone phobia? You remember, right? And what if I screw up? The library won’t get enough funds and . . .

“What’s involved?” I heard myself say.

All eyes looked at me. I was in the spotlight, another fear of mine.

Their faces lit up. “Yeah, we have a chairperson!!” one lady chirped.

Indeed they did.

Suddenly, I was surrounded by cast-out-fear reminders. Blog posts, both mine and others. Songs on the radio, both sacred and secular. A poster on my daughter’s wall that read, “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but a spirit of power, of love, and of self-control.”

Power. Love. Self-control. The things I’ve needed my entire life, the things that God has that I don’t. I can’t amputate this fear on my own. Only God can.

Slowly, surely, God is cutting through that fear and giving me more confidence.

My fear still kicks. But it’s not as strong now, and it’ll never be as strong as God.

***

71ac72bc4dce29e471f15efe1c931e1e[Laura Droege is a wife of a rocket scientist, a mama of two daughters, and a novelist with three manuscripts in search of a good publishing home. She holds a graduate degree in literature and taught English as a second language for four years. Now she stays home with her kids, writes fiction, and blogs at lauradroege.wordpress.com]

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The Joy Of Desire

We can become slaves of our desires, and dissipate; but what joy to be desired by the One we serve, and flourish.

***

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Problems With Unbalanced Grace

Some people claim they love grace, but …

  1. “Grace is great, but don’t go overboard.”
  2. “God’s grace has to be balanced with God’s law.”
  3. “People can rely too much on God’s grace.”
  4. “If you aren’t careful with your ideas about grace, you’ll end up committing the same old sins.”

Nonsense.

First, God doesn’t need me to go overboard with his grace. He does that himself already:

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions — it is by grace you have been saved. … For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast. (Ephesians 2:4-5, 8-9.)

Richer than Queen Elizabeth

Richer than Queen Elizabeth

God’s grace is richer than we can imagine, and God goes so far overboard with it that he makes us alive and saves us in his grace even when we were dead in our transgressions – the kind of dead that comes because of our sins.

Second, grace can’t be balanced with the law because the law does nothing for Christians. Nothing at all.

The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing! (Galatians 2:20-21.)

There is no righteousness to be found in following the law. Righteous living comes solely from faith in Jesus.

Third, while no one can rely too much on God’s grace it is quite possible to rely on it too little.

Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh? (Galatians 3:2-3.)

Moses with the Ten Commandments, Rembrandt

Moses with the Ten Commandments, Rembrandt

God does not give us life so that we can then follow the law. No, we start and finish our lives in him through faith by his grace. Simply put, it is faith that allows us to do what is right.*

Which leads to the fourth point: going overboard with grace doesn’t lead to sin but rather it leads to obedience.

Jesus Christ our Lord: Through him we received grace and apostleship to call all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith for his name’s sake. (Romans 1:4-5.)

Obedience comes from faith. And faith, as we saw above, is not a product of our efforts but is a gift given by God from the riches of his grace.

A Life of Obedience

Obedience is not produced by our efforts but through our faith. Allow me to repeat that.

Obedience does not come from your efforts.

You can’t try hard enough, or resolve often enough, or practice long enough to create one ounce of obedience to God. It comes from faith, which is Christ in you.

Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed — not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence — continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. (Philippians 2:12-13.)

Don’t stop with the first part of that passage. The work of obedience isn’t our work; it’s God’s work in us.

Still, people like to have some way of measuring whether they are obeying God or not, even if they understand it is obedience produced by faith and not by our own work or will. The Bible gives us the way to measure our walk with God.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23.)

Mailoica Basket of Fruit, Fede Galizia

Mailoica Basket of Fruit, Fede Galizia

The Holy Spirit carries out his work in us, and we know that we are being worked on and through when we see the fruit of the Spirit in our lives. Even when we fall short, the mere fact that we recognize that and desire to obey in faith is a sign that the Spirit continues to work in us.

That’s where obedience comes from, the Holy Spirit. It is a product of our life of faith given us through God’s extravagant, going-overboard, unbalanced grace.

***

*In fact the law – including the 10 Commandments – not only cannot produce obedience but actually brings death according to 2 Corinthians 3:7 and Galatians 3:10.

***

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Old Dogs

The more days that pass along, the more I see a growing resemblance between myself and an old dog.

You know they say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, and that might very well be true for me too. But that doesn’t bother me much. Because you know what else?

There ain’t nobody who doesn’t like old dogs.

image

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Judges and Bribes

[From the archives.]

***

I went into a convenience store near work today. I stop in for a soda once in a while, and usually share a greeting with the woman who owns the place. Today her husband was there too and I heard one of them say, “That’s the judge.”

Then her husband said something I’ve never heard there before. “That’s OK, you don’t have to pay for that.” He was smiling and gesturing for me to pick up the soda from the counter.

This couple is from another country, raised in a culture where it’s probably normal for shopkeepers to give small amounts of their wares to government officials. Perhaps it’s considered good manners to those in authority, or perhaps a way to ensure being in their good graces.

I refused the kind offer. I knew he didn’t mean anything bad by it, but I had to explain that if I didn’t pay for the soda I would not be able to leave the store with it. He laughed as I handed over the cash.

There are rules about this type of thing, of course. For one thing, the Code of Judicial Ethics which governs judges in my state is clear that accepting this type of gift – given solely because I happen to be a judge – would be an abuse of my office.

But another rule, from a higher authority at that, comes into play as well.

A Job Specifically Governed by Scripture

Appoint judges and officials for each of your tribes in every town the Lord your God is giving you, and they shall judge the people fairly. Do not pervert justice or show partiality. Do not accept a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and twists the words of the innocent. Follow justice and justice alone, so that you may live and possess the land the Lord your God is giving you. (Deuteronomy 16:18-20.)

It’s not that the man was trying to bribe me, of course. He just wanted to show a kindness. But appearances of impropriety are as bad as impropriety itself when it comes to the judiciary.  Here is how seriously God takes the judicial system:

Do not spread false reports. Do not help a guilty person by being a malicious witness.

Do not follow the crowd in doing wrong. When you give testimony in a lawsuit, do not pervert justice by siding with the crowd, and do not show favoritism to a poor person in a lawsuit.

Do not deny justice to your poor people in their lawsuits. Have nothing to do with a false charge and do not put an innocent or honest person to death, for I will not acquit the guilty.

Do not accept a bribe, for a bribe blinds those who see and twists the words of the innocent. (Exodus 23:1-3, 6-8.)

And here:

Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly. (Leviticus 19:15.)

As I said, no one would think that man was trying to bribe me. But someone who observed the gift might think the man was in a special relationship with me, one that would inure to his benefit sometime perhaps. It doesn’t matter that no one else was there to see it. God was there.

It’s odd to have a job specifically governed by Scripture.

***

[This archived post goes along with a new post I published yesterday on the failure of judges in Nazi Germany.]

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When Nazis Were Judges

Judges, even the best of judges, sometimes make the wrong decisions. And then there are courts where the wrong decision is unavoidable because wrong decisions are part of the process.

In Law, Justice, and the Holocaust (2009, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum), William F. Meinecke and Alexandra Zapruder explore the role of the German judiciary in supporting and enforcing Nazi policies from 1933 to 1945. From the beginning of the Third Reich right up to its collapse, German courts followed laws passed by the Nazi government that deprived people of basic human rights while furthering the stated aims of Adolf Hitler and his top aides.

The judges who sat in those courtrooms were not hand-picked Nazis just waiting for an opportunity to serve their Fuhrer, though. Almost all of them were hold-overs from the previous regime. Yet when told to take a new oath of office, one which explicitly elevated Hitler as the supreme object of their allegiance over the rule of law, they did so with alacrity.

Nazi leadership quickly passed laws – some signed by Hitler personally – criminalizing  free assembly and free speech, as well as providing harsher penalties for what would otherwise be minor crimes. Jews, of course, were not only specified in some of these laws as under particular restrictions, but were also singled out for that harsher punishment.

Attorney Michael Siegel paraded through Munich in 1933 with a sign reading "I am a Jew but I will never again complain to the police"

Attorney Michael Siegel paraded through Munich in 1933 with a sign reading “I am a Jew but I will never again complain to the police”

One of the most insidious laws concerned the Nazi efforts to preserve the “purity” of the nation. The national purity laws prohibited sexual relations between those the Nazis considered desirable citizens and those who were not desirable. Jews headed the list of those considered not desirable, and this law criminalized sexual relations between Jews and non-Jews. As Meinecke and Zapruder describe these laws in their book, even non-sexual relationships led to convictions. The death penalty (but only for the Jewish person in the relationship) was swiftly carried out.

Standing Up For The Oppressed

You might wonder how many judges resisted these laws, perhaps even resigned in protest over them.

One.

One judge in all of Germany quietly resigned rather than sit on the bench enforcing the laws passed in furtherance of Nazi policies. The rest stayed on the job.

When the war crimes trials came following the war, their defense sounded much like the military officers who said they were only following orders. The judges insisted they were only enforcing the laws passed by the government. Many of them were convicted.

They had forgotten some of the most basic principles of judging:

Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly. (Leviticus 19:15.)

Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy. (Proverbs 31:9.)

Hear the disputes between your people and judge fairly, whether the case is between two Israelites or between an Israelite and a foreigner residing among you. (Deuteronomy 1:16.)

The Nazi judges forgot that courts are not tools for promoting the government’s agenda.

They forgot that everyone is to be treated the same under the law, whether a citizen of the chosen nation or a foreigner, whether rich or poor, whether needy or not.

They forgot how to judge fairly, as the verses above repeatedly require.

The Nazi judges forgot that courts are a forum for providing equal justice under the law.

That is how one judges fairly.

***

Tomorrow’s post will discuss judges and bribes.

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Islamophobia Is Not In The Bible

When a person who attended seminary and now pastors a church writes an article advocating Islamophobia, my interest is piqued. Perhaps it’s a satire, I thought, or a thoughtful exploration of people-group phobias and how Christians can overcome them.

It was neither satire nor thoughtful exploration.

It was screed.

Others have addressed that aspect of the article. They’ve addressed the pastor’s insistence that Muslims should not be the focus of broad evangelism, that every Muslim in the United States should be deported, that violence is the Bible’s mandate as a “lesser pain” for the Muslims than what Christians might experience if they don’t get violent now.

It’s nonsense, of course, but that’s not what I want to address here.

I’d like to focus on how the position he takes is completely contrary to the prophecies found in the book of Isaiah.

Ancient Promises Of Blessing For The Middle East

The nation of Israel in Isaiah’s time found itself being battered literally from both sides: the Egyptians to the southwest and the Assyrians to the northeast were in constant battle with one another, and Israel found itself perpetually fought over as the two empires battled.

If Israel tried to align with Egypt, the Assyrians came through and laid siege to the walled cities. If Israel tried to appease Assyria, Egypt would chip away at the southern borders, overrunning villages and taking farmland and grazing pastures. Israel’s glory days as a mighty military and economic power under David and Solomon were long past.

In the midst of this unceasing oppression from all sides, Isaiah brought a promise from God: Egypt’s days were numbered.

In that day the Egyptians will become weaklings. They will shudder with fear at the uplifted hand that the Lord Almighty raises against them. (Isaiah 19:16.)

The prophecy promises that Israel will be mighty again, but the interesting aspect of this passage is that Egypt is going to experience not utter military defeat but rather the same type of discipline Israel had experienced repeatedly whenever it turned away from God.

The Lord will strike Egypt with a plague; he will strike them and heal them. They will turn to the Lord, and he will respond to their pleas and heal them. (Isaiah 19:22.)

If you substitute “Israel” for “Egypt” in that verse, it would sound just like earlier passages directed solely at Israel, the chosen nation of God. But the similarity gets even more striking:

When they cry out to the Lord because of their oppressors, he will send them a savior and defender, and he will rescue them. (Isaiah 19:20.)

God is promising Egypt the same thing he promised Israel. And it turns out this promise will be a blessing not only for Egypt to the south but for Assyria to the north.

In that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria. The Assyrians will go to Egypt and the Egyptians to Assyria. The Egyptians and Assyrians will worship together. In that day Israel will be the third, along with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing on the earth. The Lord Almighty will bless them, saying, “Blessed be Egypt my people, Assyria my handiwork, and Israel my inheritance.” (Isaiah 19:23-25.)

God calls Egypt his people, Assyria his handiwork, Israel his inheritance. There’s not a phobia to be found among them.

Islamophobia Is Not A Virtue

As for the pastor who wants to exalt Islamophobia as a Christian virtue, I suggest he reacquaint himself not only with Isaiah 19 but Acts 10 as well.

Peter went up on the roof to pray. He became hungry and wanted something to eat, and while the meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance.

The voice spoke to him … , “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.” (Acts 10:9-10, 15.)

Surely the pastor promoting a phobia-driven persecution of Muslims has read that passage as well as Isaiah 19. Why then does he feel free to question the promise God made to Egypt and Assyria, to call irredeemable those God has promised to redeem?

The gospel of Christ is a gospel of hope, of redemption, of peace, of love. Anytime someone preaches a contrary gospel, a gospel of hate, of violence, of fear, of phobia, I recall this:

If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse! (Galatians 1:9.)

And I urge that pastor to reconsider his post. It’s not the gospel.

***

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Striving For “Manliness” Is A Fool’s Game

Leadership Journal’s humor newsletter gives weekly doses of funny cartoons and anecdotes. Most of the time.

The cartoonist’s point, I think, is to poke a little fun at the speaker and how the men react to him. The point I got from it is that people in the church have the wrong idea about manhood.

The manly men of Coach

The manly men of Coach

It reminds me of the characters in the 90s sitcom Coach. The show centered on Division 1 football coach Hayden Fox, played by Craig T. Nelson. Half the show took place in his office next to the locker room and the show was as testosterone-laden as you could imagine.

Coach Fox’s life wasn’t completely woman-free, though. He had a daughter whose boyfriend the coach thoroughly disapproved of: a theater major who concentrated on the art of mime, there was nothing Stuart could do that met the uber-manly Coach Fox’s idea of what a man should be.

One scene in particular still sticks in my memory. The writing and comedic timing of the actors was perfect as Stuart was trying to tell Coach Fox about a major disappointment that had him getting emotional, and the coach getting visibly uncomfortable with Stuart:

“It’s not unmanly to cry,” Stuart choked out between sobs.

“Yes it is!” Coach Fox said.

Getting Manliness Right

When Coach Fox rebuked Stuart, it was funny. We knew the butt of this joke was not Stuart but the coach himself for not understanding that men really do cry over disappointments and that’s part of who we are and how we’re made.

That’s where the cartoon above misses the mark. It suggests that the speaker is the one who fails to understand that men do not want to hold hands and pray to “our sweet, sweet Lord.” Some men don’t want to do that, of course, but others do.

Being a man is not some monolithic venture where emotions and words like “sweet” are out of place.

To get manliness right is a fool’s game anyway. Our life in the family of God is not supposed to be focused on a long pursuit of biblical manhood or womanhood. Our lives are to be focused on Jesus, God the Son. (Hebrews 12:1-2.) And as we concentrate on God, he has a much better goal than mere manliness or womanliness to take us to:

Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold. … Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:12, 17-18.)

God is transforming us into the image of God himself: Jesus.*

***

*By the way, Jesus wept and Jesus was a man. (John 11:35.) So it must actually be manly to cry.

***

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People’s Looks and Covers of Books – what’s inside counts

[Adriana Kassner Cunningham, at her blog Classical Quest, touches on fine literature and the fineness of a family campfire, the simplicity of a woodland walk and the wonder of the written word. I am honored to host her today.]

***

When I was a teenager I mixed spices for an Italian restaurant. My workstation was located inside a large industrial building on the outskirts of a quaint upper-class village. Every day we baked hundreds of loaves of bread. The heat in summer, radiating from ovens the size of armored tanks, was oppressive. Large box fans offered only hot wind. By the time I clocked-out at the end of each day, my pony-tail sagged; I was flushed, sweaty, and smelled of pizza. And though I wore an apron while working, my clothes were always covered with a dusting of flour.

One evening, on my way home from work, I stopped at the library in the posh, manicured town nearby. Just beyond the entrance, bookshelves beckoned and a quiet coolness lured me. Once inside, however, I felt conscious of the contrast between my attire and that of the other patrons.

Mariemont, Ohio

Mariemont, Ohio

I spent a few moments checking the shelves for some books I wanted. Then, when I realized they didn’t have the particular titles I was looking for, I went up to the front desk to ask the reference librarian for help.

She was busy. On the phone. When at last she hung up, she glanced at me then proceeded to type on her keyboard. I waited. After a moment, I spoke –

“Excuse me, Ma’am.”

She held up a finger to signal she would be with me in a moment.

When she finished typing she looked up again, a flicker of incredulity passed over her face as if to say, Are you still here? When I asked for her assistance, she motioned to the far side of the building and muttered some suggestions.

A few weeks later I stopped back by that library to return the books I had checked out there. This time I was on my way home from a church function, so I happened to be clean. I was wearing heels, a tailored black dress, and some expensive perfume which I had received as a gift. The same librarian treated me in the exact opposite manner.

“Hello! Can I help you find anything else today?”

“No, thank you.”

“This book is excellent! Did you enjoy it?

The full eye contact. The broad smile. It really was too much.

“Yes. It was good.”

“Well then,” She pulled out a list. “You might also enjoy these titles. Although there is quite a long waiting list for some of them. Let me see what I can find for you . . .”

Such contrast in how she treated me! Night and day. White gloves and red carpet just because I looked the part.

I suppose the point could be made that good grooming is important. Perhaps I should have planned ahead and at least changed my shirt and brushed out my hair before being seen in public. I would do that now. We show respect for others by putting some degree of effort into our appearance. People cannot help observing our exteriors and, for better or for worse, we are often judged by them.

* * * * *

“But the Lord sees not as man sees . . .”

Imagine you are a guest in the village of Haarlem, Holland. It is 1940. Your watch is broken. Your host tells you to take it to Casper ten Boom, the local watchmaker. You are neither wealthy nor well-educated, yet your host assures you that “Haarlem’s Grand Old Man” will treat you fairly. You learn that he views all people as equal and even counts it an honor to wear a “Star of David” to show solidarity with the Jews who are being persecuted under Hitler’s regime.  In fact, all members of the Ten Boom family are devout Christians with a reputation for fairness, hospitality, and generosity. If Casper ten Boom is unavailable to repair your watch, his daughter Corrie will certainly assist you. She is the first licensed female watchmaker in the Netherlands.

In 1971, Corrie ten Boom reflected upon daily life in the watchshop of Haarlem in her memoir, The Hiding Place.

All through the short afternoon they kept coming, the people who counted themselves Father’s friends. Young and old, poor and rich, scholarly gentlemen and illiterate servant girls—only to Father did it seem that they were all alike. That was Father’s secret: not that he overlooked the differences in people; that he didn’t know they were there.

The title of The Hiding Place has a dual meaning. It refers both to Psalm 119:114,”Thou art my hiding place and my shield: I hope in thy word,” as well as to the secret room in the family’s home above the watchshop where the Ten Booms illegally harbored Jews. In 1944, the entire family was arrested by the Gestapo and sent to prison.

Corrie ten Boom survived the ordeal and lived to be 91 years old, but her sister and father perished while imprisoned. Only ten days after the arrest, Casper ten Boom was tossed naked into an unmarked grave. In 2008 he was honored by Yad Vashem, Israel’s official memorial to victims of the Holocaust, as one of the “Righteous Among the Nations.”

When I first read The Hiding Place as a young person, I was struck by Corrie’s description of her father’s character, especially his unbiased treatment of people from all walks of life. What a gift to be able to see others for who they are: beloved of God and made in his image! Indeed, our world needs people like Casper ten Boom today as much as ever.

I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. (Ephesians 1:18)

As we submit our vision to Christ Jesus, the eyes of our hearts will become enlightened. The Holy Spirit will empower us to love our neighbors in the same way we love ourselves.

For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart. (1 Samuel 16:7)

Let us pray for each other — that we might have the courage to see and the courage to love!

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[Adriana Kassner Cunningham writes about her journey through the classics and life at classicalquest.com. Follow her on Facebook or on Twitter @ClassicalQuest.]

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