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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » James Merritt » James Merritt - Respectful, Honor Above All

James Merritt - Respectful, Honor Above All

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    James Merritt - Respectful, Honor Above All
TOPICS: Respect, Honor

The earliest memory that I have of my parents, believe it or not, goes back, I don't even know how old that I was. But they taught me something early on that today might seem frivolous. In fact, to some of you frankly, which seem a little bit old fashioned, out of date. And I look back now and I realize it was a much bigger deal than I thought it was. It was very important. And I think it's one of the most vital lessons that parents can pass on to their children. So early on, I remember early, my dad teaching me to refer to adults as Mr. and Mrs. And when I was asked a question or I was addressed it was yes sir, no sir, yes ma'am, no ma'am. It was never just yeah, or yep. It was always sir and ma'am.

Now to be clear, I get it, we're in the 21st century and adding a prefix to a person's name is not inherently better or worst than skipping it. And I realize, well that's kind of a southern thing and I guess it is. It's kind of cultural and it's just not really a moral thing and you would be right. But as I thought about it, there really is an issue behind the issue. And the reason why my parents were teaching me to use those kind of appalachians before I would address someone, Mr., Mrs., sir, ma'am, whatever, it wasn't just about saying the words, it was about showing respect.

And I look back and realize that, you know what, that is a moral issue. Because one of the building blocks of character that's absolutely indispensable is respect. And I don't mean receiving it, I mean in giving it. And I wanna be honest, I think we have a crisis of respect in our nation today. I think there's a loss of civility. I think there's a loss of decency and there's plenty of blame to go around and I'm not thinking in any more in terms of political, terms and non political terms.

But I wanna talk to you today about a story that we actually talked about several months ago. But I wanna revisit it. It's a story of a man who one day was gonna be king, he knew he was going to be king. He had every reason not just to disrespect the one who was king, he had his reason to destroy the one who was the king and bring his kingdom to an end so he could be the king. But the fact that he didn't and the reasons that he didn't serves as a great reminder of over 2500 years later why respect is so important, what respect looks like, and oh by the way on this Mother's Day, why moms and dads desperately need to teach their children about respect.

So if you wanna look on with me today, it's kind of a weird story in a way, at least starts out that way. But it's in a book called 1 Samuel, right before 2 Samuel, not too hard to find. Start at Genesis and just turn right, you'll hit 1 Samuel. We're in 1 Samuel 24. Let me set up again the story. Let me tell you what we're about to get into. The man who would be king and who knew one day he'd be king was a man by the name of David. The man who was king was Saul. Now here's what's going on. David had put off the greatest upset in history when he defeated this giant named Goliath. But the problem was in the long run, it brought David more headaches than it did honor. Because go back 2500 years now and just think about this, David kills Goliath. That is a blessing to the nation of Israel but it turns out to be a curse for David. You say why?

Well, here's what's going on. David kills Goliath, he becomes the national hero. There are parades in his honor. Women are falling at his feet. People are lining up for his autograph. His approval rating is 100%. But that's a problem. Oh yeah, David had killed Goliath. And by the way in the process had saved King Saul's bacon. He's the MVP of the Israelii army, he owns the Medal of Honor. He's won the Presidential Medal of Freedom, he has the Nobel Peace Prize. He's the Heavyweight Champion of the World, he's the most famous celebrity in all of Israel. And take a wild guest, how do you think that makes King Saul feel? Just take a guess. He's jealous. He's not happy. He is green with envy. David's star is rising, Saul's sun is setting. So what does Saul do? He makes David public enemy number one. He makes the number one goal in his life to take David out.

And by the way, there's another reason. Saul had a son named Jonathan. He naturally wanted his son to be the next king. That won't happen if David's living so he said you know what, I'll get a two-fer. I'll take David out and people will love me again, and then I will pave the way for my son to become king. Well, after several unsuccessful attempts to kill David, he throws a spear at him, he hires a hit squad, none of that works. He says okay, you want something done, do it yourself. He takes matters into his own hands, he gets his entire army together and they're trying to hunt David down. So we come to this story in 1 Samuel 24 where they're in a place called En Gedi. I'm going to Israel fairly quickly, not too far from now we'll be in Israel.

One of the places we go is En Gedi. I'll be actually where this story took place. En Gedi's out in the dessert going toward the Dead Sea but it's kind of strange because even though you're in the desert, you're surrounded by springs of water and waterfalls and these big, big caves. Well they're out here in En Gedi and Saul finally thinks I've got David right where I want David. This is where I'm going to take David out. But what Saul doesn't realize is, he doesn't have David where he wants David, David's got Saul where David wants Saul. In Saul's life, his reign as a king is about to come and would've come to a sudden end except evidently, David's mom and David's dad had sewn the thread of respect into the coat of David's life and because David honored this principle called respect, Saul doesn't die.

But what happens in the story teaches us three tremendous lessons I wanna share with us today because we desperately need to hear it, your children need to hear it, because I believe we do need to recover this whole principle that we need to pass on to the next generation. So in 1 Samuel 24, let me tell you three things that I want you to learn. Number one, we need to respect the principle of authority. Now, a lot of you don't know the story so we gotta get you prepared. It's almost like a Saturday Night Live skit believe it or not, okay? Because there's a lot of bathroom humor involved. Here's what's going on. Saul is looking for David. He thinks he's gonna find him, he's got him cornered, but nature calls and even a king has to answer the phone when nature rings the phone.

So we read this in verse three. "He came to the sheep pens along the way, a cave was there and Saul went in to relieve himself. David and his men were far back in the cave". You say well what does it mean when it says "David went in to relieve himself". There's no gentle way to put this. Saul needs a potty break. He has to relive himself. You say well, what does the word relieve mean? So I'm trying to think how do you tell your people what that word means? So here's what's going on. I'll leave it at this. He's got a magazine in one hand and air freshener in the other. We're just gonna leave it right there, okay? He's gotta take a potty break.

So Saul goes into this cave, takes off his armor, now he's hoping that all those squatting exercises he's been doing pays off. And while Saul is doing his business, he doesn't realize that David is in the stall right next to him. He doesn't know that. Well David has sized up the situation, he says okay, this is my chance. By the way, Saul's been on his tail for 10 years. He's been trying to kill him for a solid decade. Now David's got his shot and by the way if the situation were reversed, he knew exactly what Saul would be doing to him and so did his men. As a matter of fact, here's what his men said to him. "The men said," talking to David, "David, this is the day the Lord spoke of when he said to you, 'I will give your enemy into your hands for you to deal with as you wish.'"

His soldiers say "David, can you believe your good fortune? Can you believe how good God has been? We've got a front row seat, now it's your turn. Now it's your time, now it's your chance to give Saul exactly what he deserves". So David sneaks up behind Saul. And the soldiers are licking their lips. They're ready for the blood to flow. They're ready for David to take this guy's head off. They've been on the run with David too and they're tired and they want David to be king because they wanna start eating in the palace instead of running from the palace. But instead this is what happens. "Then David crept up unnoticed and cut off a corner of Saul's robe".

And his soldiers look at each other like, you gotta be kidding me. David, why don't you kill him? Saul deserves to be killed. Saul has it coming to him to be killed. David, nobody will blame you if you kill him! Why don't you just forget cutting off the robe, how about trying this and see how that works out for us? Well, David just cuts off the robe but that story doesn't end there. "Afterward, David was conscience-stricken for having cut off a corner of his robe". David not only doesn't kill the man that deserved it, David's bothered that he even cuts off a piece of the man's robe, why? Why is he feeling so guilty? What's gnawing at him? Well David gives an answer and in so doing gives us a treasure trove of truth about what respect is all about. Here's what he says to his men. "He said to his men, the Lord forbid that I should do such a thing to my master, The Lord's anointed, or lay my hand on him, for he is the anointed of the Lord".

What happened? David understood something that I want us to understand to freshen in you, he understood the principle of authority. See, God has built authority into the very fabric of life. We couldn't have life without authority. We can't have civilization without authority. We can't have law and order without authority. We can't have interconnected relationships without authority. Let me give you an illustration. Most of you know me, you know that I'm a huge sports fan, I love sports. I'm one of you guys and you're like me, football, I'm football, basketball, basketball, baseball, baseball, soccer, I go to sleep then I come back and then we start football, just a joke. Baseball, basketball, I'm a big, big sports fan.

Well, I loved playing sports when I was in school. I love watching sports now. And if you've ever thought about this or not, but if you love football and you love baseball and you love basketball or you love soccer, you love hockey, you love tennis, whatever it may be, I want you to think about this, there would be no sports without authority. Wouldn't have it, wouldn't even know what it is. I mean you can choose the game, but you can't choose the rules. Early in my life when I was much younger, I used to play tennis. Well there's some rules, you have to stand behind the service line before you serve the ball. You gotta serve the ball in a box. When you hit the ball back and forth, you gotta stay between the side lines.

If you played basketball, I played basketball in school, you play basketball, you gotta dribble the ball when you go up the court. You gotta stay in bounds, you can't step out of bounds. And if you wanna take a shot, you can't take more than two steps before you shoot. I love to play golf and in golf there are certain rules you have to follow, right? You play the ball where it lies. You got these white stakes, you go on the other side of the white stakes, you're out of bounds. You hit in the water, you take a penalty drop. You got all these kinds of rules that you have to follow. In other words, whatever game you choose to play is okay but you've got to be under the rules that govern the game and you play under that authority.

So the rules govern your behavior. You just can't play golf the way you wanna play golf. Or basketball the way you wanna play basketball or football the way you wanna play football. You've got to play under the rules and your only chance of winning the game is to play by the rules. And if you break the rules enough, you may not even get to finish the game. Well sports is just like life, life is full and filled with authority. So here's where David is and he gets it. David's living in a kingdom. When you live in a kingdom, you're under kingdom authority. Saul, as the king, was the embodiment of that principle of authority.

And that is so important that you understand 'cause here's where we kind of run into a ditch. There are a lot of us out there, and here's how we live our life right? We live our life by popularity. We live our life by what other people think is right. Or we live our life by practice. We just do what the Romans do. If they're doing it, I'll do it. Well you don't live your life by popularity, you don't live your life by practice, you live your life by principle. You live your life by a conviction of what is right. Well David respected the principle of authority. He said okay here's where I am, Saul, you are still the king. David, you're still under his authority.

Now what set David apart from his soldiers is, David understood that what is right in any situation, is not what we think is right. It's not even what other people feel is right, it's what God says is right. So David says this is not right. And one of the marks of maturity is the willingness to abide by the principle of authority even though you may not always agree without how that authority asking. I want you to understand this, this is important. Does it mean you support evil? No. Does it mean that you condone wrongdoing? Absolutely. It doesn't mean that we approve of evil anymore than David approves of what Saul was doing but it does mean we respect all authority unless that authority asks us to do something that is immoral, unethical or unbiblical. That's a different ballgame. But otherwise, we are to respect the principle of authority.

Now in case you say, and I know some of you right now you're already struggling with some things I'm saying and I know why and I know where you're going so I'm going to get there. Because not only must you respect the principle of authority, you must respect the position of authority. Now David, listen to what happens, David so respected the principle of authority, he feels guilty for cutting off a piece of the guy's robe. That Saul probably wouldn't even have missed it. Maybe he only cut off just a little, bitty piece but he just feels absolutely guilty. And to show how deep his respect went, look what David does next. "Then David went out of the cave and called out to Saul, my lord the king! When Saul looked behind him, David," now watch this, "bowed down and prostrated himself with his face to the ground".

That's universally recognized in every culture as long as the world's been in existence and it's still true today. Whenever you bow before someone, you're showing respect. And you're really showing respect when you don't just bow, you actually get on the dirt, you get on the ground, you put your face to the ground. And you're saying I can't believe David would bow before a guy that was trying to take him out. I want you to understand something. Hear this, David was not bowing before the person that Saul was. David was bowing before the position that Saul holds. And the fact is Saul was still on the throne. You say well, he's not the king, he ought to be. You're right. He's not the king God wants him to be, you're right. But he's still the king and if he's still the king, he's still David's king.

If you're in business, you know this. There's an old saying, the customer's not always right, but the customer's always the customer. That's just a fact. And the king may not always be right but he's still the king. By the way, those of you who are in here right now and you're still living at home with your parents, let me just kind of help you out on something okay? I know sometimes you think your parents just don't get it. I understand. I can't believe how dumb my parents are sometimes. I can't believe the way my parents think sometimes, I can't believe how strict they are on me. I can't believe what they ask me to do. I can't believe what they tell me I can't do.

And let me just kind of, I'm gonna be on your side for five seconds, Sometimes you're right and your parents are not. Your parents are not perfect and they don't claim to be. Your parents are not right. I look back on my own life as a parent, I've got a lot of regrets as a parent. I've got a lot of regrets as a dad so much that I've got set my three sons down three years ago and apologized for some of the ways I failed them as a dad. I get it.

So if you say well, but Pastor my parents are not always right, they're not always on target, I know. But they're always your parents. Period. Your boss may not always be right but he's always the boss. Your teacher may not always be right but she's still the teacher. Your coach may not always be right, but he's still the coach. And listen, this is not a partisan's statement in any way whatsoever. I don't care who's in the office, it does not matter to me. The President may not always be right, but he's always the President. That never changes. And don't confuse respecting the position that a person holds with a person that holds the position.

When J.F. Kennedy was inaugurated as President of the United States, he went to a private party and there was a lot of his inner circle people that were there, lifelong friends, people that he went to school with, people that grew up with him, people that known him all of his life. And so he walks in and everybody's congratulating him and he had a pet name named Jack, that was who his close friends called him. Everybody was walking up to him saying congratulations Jack! Jack, I'm so proud of you. Jack I can't believe you're the President of the United States. Everybody was calling him Jack. And then Bobby Kennedy, his brother walked in who had just been selected to be the next Attorney General. His brother walked in, here's all his people calling his brother Jack, and then just as a way to let them know you don't know jack, you got that, that's good, okay. You're getting it in waves, okay. Jack, did you get that?

All right 'cause Jack you don't know jack either but listen. He walked up to his brother when it was real quiet and said so loud everybody could hear it, "Congratulations Mr. President"! Wait a minute that's your brother. No, no, he's the President. He's not Jack, he's not just my brother, he is the President. Bobby Kennedy was teaching a great lesson. Forget the person, he holds this position and that position deserves respect. Because notice how David continually addressed Saul. For example, in verse 6 he says, "You are my master, the Lord's anointed". As a matter of fact, he repeats it twice. He says "He is the anointed of the Lord". He then calls him, "My Lord the king". And he's not talking about it, he says, "You're the King of Israel". He's not about talking about Saul the person, he's talking about Saul's position.

When this last service was over, man walked out after service 'cause I'm talking about the Marine Corp. And he came out and he said, "Hey I used to serve in the Marines". I said, "Well thanks for serving the country". He said, "I appreciate what you said 'cause you're exactly right". The Marine Corp has a saying, you know what that saying is? "You don't salute the person, you salute the rank". In other words, you don't honor the person but you do honor the position. Because if you serve in the military, you know what I'm about to say is true. There are good Generals, there are bad Generals. There are nice Generals and there are mean Generals. And there are smart Generals and there are dumb Generals but they are all Generals. And the reason why they all should be saluted is not because of who they are, it's because of what they are. It's because of the position that they hold. So you may not respect the person, but you respect the position.

I may have told you this story before, I don't remember. When Bill Clinton was President, right in the middle of the Monica Lewinsky scandal. Some of us who remember that. And I got up and I kinda got in my little passionate way, I just blew it. But I was just so worked up, I said, "Bill Clinton is an idiot"! Exactly what I said, Bill Clinton's an idiot. I knew the moment I said it, I knew I said the wrong thing. Say how do you know? I have one way I can always tell. The way she looks at me. I knew man, I'm in deep trouble, I'd blown it. I knew I'd blown it, I knew I'd done it. So I waited a week, I didn't took to their critic, nobody called, I didn't get any ugly letters or anything like that but I got up the next Sunday.

Actually what I said, I said look, before I get up and preach I gotta do something. I said I gotta make things right. I said I owe the church an apology, I owe the President an apology. I said something I had no business saying, it was wrong. I said Bill Clinton is not an idiot, he is the President. He deserves our prayers, he deserves our respect. And I said before God, I will never, ever, ever make that mistake again. I said every word exactly the way she told me to say it. So I'm just simply, my point being, I learned a lesson. You may not respect the person, but you do respect the position. Laurence Sterne said this, he said "Respect for ourselves guides our morals. But respect for others guides our manners".

Now let me just stop because some of you I'm sure, you're struggling with what I'm saying and I understand why. And you're just not quite sure you can get there. So I wanna give you an even deeper reason why David did and why we should respect the principle of authority and why we should respect the position of authority. And it is because we respect the power behind authority. Now this is important, listen to this. In this chapter and two chapters later, David uses a phrase to refer to Saul six different times. He uses the same phrase. And in chapter 26, he says it at 9, 11, and 23. He refers to him six different times. You know what he calls him? Six times, the Lord's anointed, the Lord's anointed, the Lord's anointed, the Lord's anointed, six different times.

See, when David looked at Saul, he didn't primarily see the king that was on the throne, he saw the God that put him on the throne. He didn't primarily see a guy that was trying to take him out, he primarily saw the God that put him in. And when David bowed before the throne, he wasn't bearing down to the person on the throne, he was bowing down to the power behind the throne. Because let me tell you, listen, David wasn't an idiot. Do you think David had a high view of Saul as a person? Of course not. Do you think David sent Saul a Christmas card? Of course not. Do you think David just absolutely had all this respect for Saul as a person? Of course not! But David had a supremely, extremely, high view of God and the power of God that put Saul on the throne.

So let me just answer your question. Did Saul as a person personally deserve respect? Of course not. Absolutely not. But that wasn't what was on the line. What was on the line was this, Saul's character was not on the line, David's character was on the line. So David said you know what? I'm not gonna focus on what you're trying to do to me, I'm gonna focus on what God has done for you by putting you in that position. And I'm gonna focus on what God wants me to do for you. Because think about this, just because Saul was out of the will of God in the way he treated David, did not mean that David therefore had the right to get out of the will of God in the way he treated Saul. It was God who had anointed Saul. It was God who had appointed Saul.

And David said I not only respect the principle of authority, I not only respect the position of authority, my greatest respect is for the power behind authority. Someone a while, in fact, one of my buddies said this a while ago, if you ever see a turtle on a fence post, he didn't get there by himself. That is such a wise saying. 'Cause let me just give a little lesson here to a lot of you folks in this room. Some of you are ultra successful in what you do. Some of the most successful business people that I've ever met, go to this church. Some of the most successful people in other areas of life go to this church. You didn't get there by yourself. There's no such thing as a self-made man, no such thing. Whatever success you've had, whether you realize it or not, God gave it to you. Whatever position you hold, God put you in that position.

So don't ever forget this because this is so important, this is where respect really, truly comes from. See there's something we can know about every ruler who is ruling anywhere, anytime, any place, whether that ruler realizes it or not, whether that ruler rules like it's true or not, whether that ruler believes it's true or not, behind every ruler is the sovereign power of God. Behind every ruler, there's a sovereign power of God. He is the power behind all power. And so David said you know what? It is not my job to replace what God put in place. It's not my job to dethrone what God has in throne. And you know what? God, since you are big enough to put him in, You're big enough to take him out. So I'm not going to do that. I'm not going to step in. And by the way, that's what enabled David to say this.

Look, this is so good what David's doing. David says, talking to Saul, "May the Lord be our judge and decide between us. May He consider my cause and uphold it. May He vindicate me by delivering me from your hand". This is what David was saying. You may be the earthly king, but there is an eternal king who made you the earthly king you are. So Saul, let's get something straight right now. You take your best shot. I'm standing here and I'm not running anymore. But you understand something, I'm not in your hands, I'm in His hands so you just go ahead and do whatever you want to do. Because David realized something, this is so good. I mean this one thing just blessed me. When you realize that everything is in God's hands, you never have to take matters into your own hands. When you realize everything's in God's hands, you never have to take matters into your own hands.

See, David's taken a stand, he understands. Disrespect to you doesn't mean that disrespect has to come from you. He understands if you want to get respect, you gotta give respect. Know by the way, there's something else going here, think about this. Let's roll the tape back. David takes his shot, and he kills Saul. Takes Saul out. No more running, no more worry, no more looking over your shoulder, and, oh, you are now the king. Say yeah, well what would be wrong with that? Saul deserved it! He did. Nobody would've blamed David. No they wouldn't. He got what God told him he was gonna have. He did.

So, what's the problem? So we fast forward 25 years. And David is now a grandfather. David is talking to his grandchildren. And one of his grandchildren say, "Papa, how did you become the king"? "Um, I killed a guy when he was sitting on the potty". Do you really want that as your legacy? Or your son comes to you five years later. "Hey dad, I hear people whispering. Dad, how did you become king"? "Well son, this man was squatting down, and I took him out". Are you really want that for your legacy? And oh by the way, not only would David have had to live with that the rest of his life but now guess what?

So somebody comes along that doesn't like David. And doesn't care for David. So what do they say? You took him out, we'll take you out. David says no, I'm not gonna do that. I get it Lord, I understand. One day when I'm king, if I want to get the respect that I want my people to give me, I've got to give the respect that you want me to give. So listen to what he does, this is so good. He does something better. No, he doesn't kill Saul, you know what he does? He humiliates him. He undresses him in front of his men. Listen to what, look at this. Look what Saul is forced to say. Saul's talking, "You're more righteous than I". And you know what ever soldier's doing on both sides? Yep, you're right.

"You've treated me well but I've treated you badly". And all those soldiers, yep, you're right. "You've just now told me about the good you did to me. The Lord delivered me into your hands, but you didn't kill me". And they're going wow, that's true. "When a man finds his enemy, does he let him get away unharmed"? I wouldn't have! "May the Lord reward you well for the way you treated me today. I know you will surely be king and that the kingdom of Israel will be established in your hands".

So what's the lesson? What am I trying to tell you on this Mother's Day? Two things and we'll say good-bye. The atmosphere in this nation is just poisonous right now. You know it and I know it. We're not gonna sugarcoat anything. And by the way, I'm so grateful that I walk into a church every week. We've got so much diversity in this church. And so let me just say that open secret. You know what I love? We've got Democrats, we've got Republicans, we've got Libertarians, we've got Independents, we've got this, we've got that. But we've learned as a church to walk in here and leave all that junk behind in the parking lot. Just love each other and just be one like we ought to be.

So would you just give yourself a hand right now? I mean I'm dead serious, that's just so sweet. So precious. This is the lesson I want you to leave and I want you to teach your kids this. Disrespectful people, will always try to drag you down to their level. Don't take that bait. Respectful people will try to pull you up to their level. And disrespect to you doesn't mean that disrespect has to come from you. You can live your life everyday and say you know what, I may not get the respect I deserve. I may get the disrespect I don't deserve but I will tell you this, because I understand the principle and the position and the power behind authority, I will give respect even when I'm not respected. Because just because someone chooses to disrespect you, doesn't mean you have to choose to disrespect them.

And you know what I'm about to tell you is true, somewhere, somehow, somebody has got to start saying to this country, enough of this. You take your best shot, you throw out your nicknames, you do this, you do that, I am going to respect the principle and the position and the power behind authority because at the end of the day, that's what God will honor. That's what God will use, that's what God will bless. So, where does that leave all of us today? I want you to think about one last thing and I'm done. Everybody in this room, everybody in this room, you live your life under one of three sources of authority, everybody in this room.

Some of you are living your life under your authority. This is your attitude when you get up, it's my life, I'll live it the way I want to live it. Nobody's gonna judge me, nobody's gonna tell me what's right, nobody's gonna tell me what's wrong. When I die, I'll die singing the Sinatra song "I did it my way". And that's the way you live your life. Then there's some of you, you live your life under the authority of other people. Whatever's popular, that's what I'll do. I'll always keep my finger to the wind. If the majority believes it, I'll believe it. If the majority says it, I'll say it. If the majority does it, I'll do it. Because I'm more concerned about what people think about me than I am of what God thinks of me.

So my authority's gonna be what other people think. But then there's a third group. You make up your mind, as hard as it is and it is hard and it's getting harder by the day. I am not gonna live my life under my authority and I'm sure not gonna live my life under yours. I'm gonna live my life under His. I'm gonna put my life under what He says in that book. I'm gonna put my life under what He wants me to do. I'm gonna put my life under the way He lives. And you say well, why should I do that? I'll give you the best reason of all, this God that I talk about every week loved you so much He sent His son Jesus to die for you. He raised His son from the dead so He could live in you. He did all of that so you could be forgiven of your sins. You could receive eternal life and you can have an eternal relationship with God. And if that is true, what other authority would you ever want to live under?
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