Typically, we see affirmative action as something to be applied by those outside the community upon or on behalf of those within. But affirmative action from within the group is also appropriate. It might be better called "affirming."

I play tennis on public courts where some of the city's better players come out to be seen. Back one morning when the weather was warm, I arrived to find the courts were full, but with the posted "1-hour limit when others are waiting" sign I knew my wait would not be long. As I waited with others, another player, also waiting, decided to take it upon herself to invite a preteen couple demonstrating no particular mastery of the sport to yield to more skilled players and continue their play on courts several blocks away where their plodding would not be an interference. You can imagine I was thankful she was not my partner as I also plod on occasion. The youths would have yielded had it not been for others in waiting who pointedly reminded the skilled sister of the young couple's entitlement to the full hour, and that we all had humble beginnings but developed skill as we were allowed to practice, and practice, and practice.

So often we condemn others to a life of inferiority by our annoying boast of superiority. The student who learns slower shrinks from effort for fear of ridicule; the aspiring ballerina who is shamed from the dance floor; the next grand orator who is forced to stutter; the perfect plan forsaken because of the taint of architect; the idea that is no good because "it is not mine." The disaffected among us are often forced to seek avenues of fellowship that would not have been considered if not for our disdain or lack of encouragement. This is as unfortunate for us as it is for them, as such choices often serve to further impede their success and slow our progress as a people --- Too often the shackles are not applied by those outside the community.

When God told Moses that he was not going into the promised land but would be replaced as Israel's leader by Joshua, He also told Moses to encourage Joshua and strengthen him and that he (Joshua) would cause Israel to inherit the land (Deuteronomy 3:28). We too, must encourage those who follow. The Apostle Paul spent much of his time and energy encouraging others to excel at their tasks and better use their God-given talents. And when Priscilla and Aquila saw Apollos struggling to teach what he knew of the gospel they chose to take him under their tutelage for correction and instruction rather than proclaim his ignorance. Apollos became stronger in his evangelism and was of great benefit to the church (Acts 18:24-28).

The Apostle Paul's counsel in 1 Thessalonians 5:11-14 gives us the secret to growing strong: "Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do. {12} And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you; {13} And to esteem them very highly in love for their work's sake. And be at peace among yourselves. {14} Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men."

To prosper as a people, we must cease looking down on those who are learning, striving, or working to be something, or to be better at what they are or are doing. We must recognize that we have a common goal and we must ensure that the common adversary is not us.

Jesus Embroidered

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