The Nature of True Love
Our subject in this session is the nature of true love. The batting average for most Americans is very poor indeed when it comes to finding
the particular person which God
has designed for each in marriage. This is evidenced by thousands upon thousands of unhappy miserable marriages because two people, with nothing
wrong with either one of them, but when put together, form an undesirable unit. Yet, God has provided a particular man for a particular woman
for each to form a one flesh unit.
Matthew 19:3-6 says, "The Pharisees also came unto him testing him and saying to him, 'Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for any reason
And he answered and said to them, "Have you not read that he who made them at the beginning made them male and female, and said for this cause
shall a man leave father and mother and cleave to his wife, and they too shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more. But one flesh. What
therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder."
God has created, from the beginning, male and female, which indicates one for one--a particular one for another particular one. The Bible
warns in the Proverbs many times against entering a bad marriage because of selecting the wrong mate. Proverbs 11:22 says, "As a jewel of gold in
a swine's snout, so is a fair woman who is without discretion." Proverbs 12:4: "A virtuous woman is a crown to her husband, but she who shames
him is as rottenness in his bones." Proverbs 19:13: "A foolish son is the calamity of his father, and the contentions of a wife are a continual
dropping." Proverbs 21:9: "It is better to dwell in a corner of the housetop than with a brawling woman in a wide house. Proverbs 21:19:
"It is better to dwell in the wilderness than with a contentious and angry woman."
A woman who is mated to the wrong husband becomes a very complicated problem. She becomes a very unsympathetic and offensive person to have
around. That's what's behind these verses in Proverbs. The trouble stems from a lack of orientation to the mind of God when it comes to
choosing a marriage partner. An orientation to God's thinking requires a knowledge of the principles of divine truth, the doctrines of the
Word of God.
The marriage conflict is also created by false views that people have on the relationship between sex and love. Religion, not Christianity,
but religion distorts sex with the idea that it has to be limited to reproduction. Religion also promotes asceticism with the idea that there
is something dirty, offensive, undignified, and improper about sex. So, it distorts sex just as much as lasciviousness and unabandoned
sensuality. The unbiblical views of religion unfortunately are often ascribed to the Bible and to Christianity. Nothing is farther from the
truth. The Bible doesn't teach any such views concerning sex or its relationship to love. The Bible does have a Christian doctrine concerning
sex. Sex within God's plan is a good thing to be enjoyed with thanksgiving. However, sexuality and being in love are not to be equated. The
use of sex is simply one small portion of the expression of genuine love.
The world's standards relative to sex are really perversions. The biblical standards of chastity before marriage and fidelity after
marriage are expressions that are true to nature. This view conforms to reality. The godly use of sex begins with the right attitude of mind
which is based on information gathered from the Word of God. We found that there are three reasons for sex. One is companionship or recreation
between husband and wife. The second reason for sex is for having children. The third reason for sex is the use of sex within marriage, and marriage
as a controlling element upon the proper use of sex.
The basic problem for a woman is that she is empty by divine creation until she finds fulfillment for her being through her right man.
Whatever else she may be, whatever capacities she may have, she is an empty vessel until the right man comes along and fulfills her. The
Bible gives vital information, therefore, about understanding the nature and the structure of women. They are only complex, whether you want
to believe it or not, when they are frustrated through a breakdown in their relationships to their right man.
When a woman fails to marry her right man, God and grace provide solace for her empty vessel, and the same for the man. Therefore, it is not
necessary for a woman to become emotionally unstable, for her to become tyrannical, to become a man-hater, or to become domineering. These are
often characteristics which signal, when you see them in women, that this woman is not being fulfilled by her man. She's married to the wrong
man, or her right man is not coming through for her. This condition that she may unfortunately suffer from a breakdown in her relationship with
her right man does not give a woman license to run off home to mother. Her body belongs to her husband as his body belongs to her. She is
committed to him for better or for worse. She does not leave and fly the coop when the difficulties arise. Nor does this give her license to
run off with some other man--even her right man, whom she may have found too late.
So, an understanding of the nature of true love is essential to making a proper selection of a husband or wife and for marital happiness. The
quality of love, from the biblical point of view, is what we are interested in pursuing in this session. Love originates as part of the essence
of God. Satan is everywhere trying to distort the quality of true love. True love is part of God's basic nature, and therefore it's His possession.
Disorientation on the meaning of love is expressed in the world through such concepts as brotherhood--we're all brothers and everybody loves one
another; don't resist communist aggression with force because you might make them mad; don't execute premeditated murderers; tolerate the
sexual perverts--give them understanding; and, don't look down upon gay people, and the bestiality people, and so on. All of this is satanic
distortion of love.
The nature of true love is illustrated by God's appeal to his unfaithful wife, Israel. Israel in the Old Testament was viewed as the wife of
Jehovah. In Jeremiah 3, God is making an appeal for the return of his unfaithful wife, Israel. They've gone into captivity and they have been
in captivity for ten years. Yet, God's love is of such a quality that He could reach out for this people who had been so spiritually adulterous
and unfaithful to him. Jeremiah 3:12: "Go and proclaim these words toward the north and say, 'Return you backsliding Israel' said the Lord, 'and
I will not cause my anger to fall upon you; for I am merciful' said the Lord, 'and I will not keep anger forever.'"
One of the qualities of the love of God is that it is forgiving. It does not keep anger. There is a way back. The love of God basically is an
attitude of mind. When the mind is free of ill will, and that's what divine love is--a mental attitude free of ill will, we are not plagued
with self-pity or with ideas of how we've been mistreated. True love is always relaxed therefore because it's a relaxed mental attitude.
People who are in a bind make very poor lovers. But as with Abraham and Sarah, a relaxed mind free of ill will enabled Abraham to call her
"princess," and for her to call him "my lord."
In Philippians 1, we have a very good analysis of what the Bible means by love. In Philippians 1:9, the apostle Paul says, "In this I pray
that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment." Now this is a prayer by the Apostle Paul for the Philippian
Christians, and this prayer stresses a petition that they may enter into what God means by love. This is a very important declaration that
he's going to make to them. Therefore, in the Greek Bible, this verse begins with the Greek words which signal that something very important
is coming. Then he used the Greek word for prayer, "proseuchomai". This word connotes praying for someone else. So, Paul is saying, "I am
praying for someone else here (namely you Philippian Christians), and I am about to tell you of a very important prayer request that I'm
offering up in your behalf." The whole general theme of this book of Philippians is the subject of personal happiness. Personal happiness
requires the experience of true love.
Then he says, "This I pray that your love may abound," and "your love" introduces his prayer requests for the Philippian Christians. In the
Greek bible, the word love here is "agape." The nature of love, in the biblical sense, has to be determined from the meaning of this word.
This is a matter of etymology. Archbishop Trent was a noted scholar who noticed a significant relationship between the Latin and the Greek
words for love. He observed that there were certain Latin equivalents for the Greek word "agape" (or "agapao") and "phileo," which were used in
the Latin Vulgate version, the translation of the Scriptures by one of the Church Fathers, Jerome, near the end of the fourth century. He noticed
that every time the Greek bible used the word "agapao," the Latin Vulgate version would use the Latin word which refers to a love which is
based on esteem for an object. It is a mental attitude, and the word does not have any emotional connotations. "Agapao" is the equivalent of
this Latin word, and it is a non-emotional love. It is an attitude of mind free of ill will.
The other Greek word that we have in the New Testament is "phileo," and Archbishop Trent noticed that whenever "phileo" came up in the Greek
bible, the Latin version used a different word which refers to an emotional, unreasoning, spontaneous affection. "Phileo" is equal to an
emotional love. "Agapao" is a mental attitude free of ill will. This is very noticeably brought out in a quotation that Archbishop Trent gives
from Cicero. Cicero is speaking about one friend to another, and he says, "I do not esteem ("agapao") the man merely, but I love ("phileo")
him. There is something of the passionate warmth of affection in the feeling with which I regard him." So, in using these two distinct words,
what Cicero is saying here is, "I not only have a mental attitude free of ill will toward this man, but I have an emotional attachment of
affection (a feeling) with which I regard him as well." This single sentence is a beautiful illustration of the difference between "agapao"
Jerome, near the end of the fourth century, lived at a time very close to the New Testament. Therefore, he had access to the
meaning of these Greek words in the times in which they were used. So, when he came to these Latin words which have clear and definitive
meanings, he was qualified to know which Latin word should be equated to which Greek word.
So, love, here in Philippians 1:9, is a mental attitude of esteem free, therefore, of all ill will. It's not some superficial sentimentality;
it's not being nice to someone; and, it is not a physical thing (sex). Such love is not an emotional appeal to tolerate criminal activities,
sex perverts, or the things that lead to the destruction of a nation. This love in Philippians 1:9 is a love for which the apostle Paul is earnestly
asking God in behalf of these Christians at Philippi. This love is a mental attitude condition. Paul says, "I pray that this may abound." "Agape"
love cannot be contained or dismissed. It is something that grows. The word "abound" is "perisseuo." It is in the active voice which indicates
that it is choosing its own object of affection. This is a love which is abounding in such a way that it is choosing its own affection. Avoid
the impression of having such a love for someone just because you were reflecting other peoples' choices. Avoid the impression that you're in
love with someone because somebody else thinks you should be in love with them in this sense. You must live out of your own soul when it comes
to true "agape" type love.
Paul says, "That this may abound." So, it's subjunctive in the grammar here which means it's a potential experience. You may possess this kind
of love and you may not. You may be developing as a believer. You may be expanding with a mental attitude or you may not be. Paul says, "I want
this mental attitude type of love to develop and to grow yet more and more, which is a strong expression for a deeper and broader outreach of
"agape" love among the believers.
How can you grow in this kind of love? Well, not by permissiveness toward the wrongs that you see in Christians or in unbelievers, and not by
physical experiences. It says, "That you may grow more and more in this type of love in knowledge." The Greek word for "knowledge" here is
"epignosis." This word means full knowledge or full understanding. So, we may translate this actually as "by means of:" "This I pray; that your
love may abound yet more and more by means of full knowledge." We have already learned that full knowledge is Bible doctrine which your mind
has learned and has grasped, under the filling and guidance of the Holy Spirit, as you have sat in church and been instructed by a pastor-teacher.
Then when you exercise positive volition toward this truth--you respond and believe it--this is an act of faith. This what you have
learned in the mentality of your soul is now transferred into your human spirit which acts as a warehouse, a storage place, of divine
understanding from which God the Holy Spirit guides the totality of your soul--your emotions, your will, and your thinking.
We won't take time to go over this particular structure of our being, but you can study these scriptures on your own: In Romans 8:16, Paul
says that it is the Spirit of God who witnesses to our spirit, our human spirit, that we are the children of God; and 1 Corinthians 2:12 says,
"Now we have received not the spirit of the world." The spirit of the world are the rational processes (learning things by reason or by
empiricism or by our senses). 1 Corinthians 2:12 continues, "But the Spirit out from God" (the proper translation). This is not God the Holy Spirit,
though you have a capitalized "Spirit" there in the King James translation. The Greek says, "But the Spirit out from God." This is speaking of our
human spirit, that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. In verse 11, you have, "Even so the things of God no man knows,"
and there it is in the possessive, indicating that it is God the Holy Spirit. It is the things of God the Holy Spirit. However, this is not the
possessive case here in verse 12 when it speaks of the Spirit out from God. This is what God the Holy Spirit gives at the point of regeneration.
So, we are told here that God the Holy Spirit and our human spirit combine to enable us to know the things that are freely given to us of
Paul says, "I am calling for a love that is going to develop, that is going to abound, and it is going to become deeper because you are
receiving Bible doctrine." Your capacity to love, to love God, to love your opposite number, and to love your friends are all going to be determined
by the extent of full knowledge ("epignosis") in your human spirit. Your effectiveness as a lover is not a matter of experience. This is
important. It is a matter of Bible doctrine in your human spirit. You people who think you are real Don Juans have picked up a very false notion
from the world. If you want to be a real lover, get with the Word.
Continuing with Philippians 1:9, Paul says, "That you may abound more and more by means of knowledge in all judgment." The word judgment is
"aisthesis," and it means perception. Bible doctrine in your spirit expands your capacity to love because it gives you discernment and right
direction for your whole being. This includes perception to know when to change your opinion about a marriage prospect, for example. This is
why it's important to have Bible doctrine in your soul if you are going to pick the right person. The test of genuine love is the discernment
that comes from it.
Verse 10 then says, "That you may approve things that are excellent." Here's the wisdom of love. Notice that there are two uses of the word "that,"
in this verse. The first "that" is that you may approve things that are excellent. The second "that" is that you may be sincere and without
offense till the day of Christ. The first "that" is the basis of the fulfillment of the second "that." You have two purpose clauses. The first
is "eis," and the second is "hina." This shows that the results of the second one depends upon the first. In other words, if you are going to
be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ, it is because you have been able to do the first part of verse 10--approve things that
are excellent. The word "approve" is "dokimazo," which means to accept after testing in order to find what is genuine. Your love is able to tell
the real from the fake. The means of testing is your discernment which comes from the full knowledge in your human spirit. This again is the
active voice which indicates that each of us must decide from our own soul, and not operate on someone else's evaluation--fitting into any
Love thus is able to be directed toward things that are excellent and to bypass the things that are inferior--that you may approve
by testing to show the genuine as a result of the knowledge that you have so that your love can be expressed toward the things that are excellent
so that you may be sincere ("eilkrines"), which means to judge by sunlight. Here it is the light of doctrine. "And that you may be without
offense ("aproskopos"), and this means that you feel no stumbling block within your own being, your own conscience, that would cause another
to stumble--that you may be sincere; that you may be judging in the sunlight of doctrine, and therefore find nothing in yourself which would
cause another to stumble, even unto the day of Christ, which is the day of the rapture, the day that Jesus Christ returns to catch up the
Christians, the living and the dead, to be with him in heaven.
Verse 11 gives us then the result of love, of this kind of divine love: "Being filled consequently with the fruits of righteousness." The word
for "being filled" is "pleroo." Here are some important grammatical points that you should understand about this word. It is in the perfect
tense, passive voice, and the participle mode. Perfect means that the results of true love are permanent, being filled with something that
is permanent. Passive means that these results from true love are obtained because the word of God is acting in us. We are the beneficiaries
of something within our spirits which is guiding us. A participle indicates that here is a permanent principle of life.
Now there are four certain basic meanings to "pleroo" that we should be aware of which apply here:
Now let's make an application of love. First, we'll consider love for the opposite sex. Love in this class, one man for his one woman, was
designed by God in eternity past for the expression toward one particular person only. There are exceptions in the case of celibacy or in the
case of eunuchs. For these, the Word of God and service replaces the particular person that God has designed for each. In the Song of Solomon,
we have some indications concerning the expression of love for your own particular opposite number. Love for your own particular one is powerful.
Song of Solomon 8:6-7: "Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm. For love is strong as death. Jealousy is cruel as Sheol. Its
coals are coals of fire which have a most vehement flame. Many waters cannot quench love; neither can the floods drown it. If a man would give
all the substance of his house for love, he would utterly be rejected." The love of the right man for his right woman is "strong as death." This
means that it's final and irreversible. The burning of true love cannot be quenched by any pressures. Once the particular one is in the soul of the
other, the image returns. You may be separated. You may not approve of something they do, but you never forget them.
"Pleroo" means to fill up a deficiency. We have a need of producing fruits of righteousness. That is the word used here in verse 11, "Being
filled with the fruits of righteousness." We have a deficiency, and that deficiency is the production of divine good. The knowledge of the Word
will enable our love to express itself in such a way that we produce not human good but divine good. God never rewards us for any human good we
do, but at the judgment seat of Christ He rewards us eternally for our divine good.
"Pleroo" also means to possess fully. The goal of divine good is to absorb and motivate the believer.
"Pleroo" means to influence fully. All areas of life are controlled by love for God and productive of divine good. This is not operating on a
substitute of programs and gimmicks or pep talks. This means being influenced by doctrine, not by some human agent.
"Pleroo" means to fill up with a certain quality. Love which stems from doctrine is an ennobling love, and that's the quality of God's love.
Thus, true love in the mind is the product of the Word of God which then produces divine good in all of our relationships.
Death terminate false love, but there is something strange about the effect of death upon the love of a right man and his right woman.
Ecclesiastes 9 indicates that there is a continuing quality to the love of a particular man and his particular woman. Ecclesiastes 9:5: "For
the living know that they shall die, but the dead know not anything. Neither have they any more reward, for the memory of them is forgotten.
Also their love and their hatred and their envy are now perished. Neither have they any more a portion forever in anything that is done under
the sun." The only things that are destroyed are the things that are false and what are mental attitude sins. Their love and their hatreds and
their envy are perished. But that which was genuine in love, that continues. That has a quality where the one takes in his soul almost to the
grave the love of the other.
The particular love is exclusive toward one person. Proverbs 5:18-20: "Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice with the wife of your youth.
Let her be as the loving hind and pleasant doe. Let her breast satisfy you at all times, and be ravished always with her love. And why would
you, my son, be ravished with a strange woman, and embrace the bosom of a stranger?" In the nature of true love, it cannot go out freely to
anyone except the particular one that God has designed for you. All others are excluded. Genuine sex love and genuine sex happiness are found
only in one opposite number. It's a soul-to-soul relationship, a particular soul to a particular soul. It is foolishness to seek to find love
in any other one. So, the idea in Proverbs here is that that particular wife is the one in whom alone you can find sex love and sex happiness.
This incidentally, a soul-to-soul relationship is the way God designed sex to operate on the right man and his right woman. This eliminates
auto-erotism, homosexuality, and adultery as any possible grounds of genuine and full sex happiness.
A particular man or a particular woman's love is a very satisfying and a perfect happiness. Proverbs 15:17: "Better is a dinner of herbs
where love is than a stalled ox and hatred therewith." Each sustains the other. It's not dependent on anyone or anything other than themselves.
It's an all satisfying happiness. Also this kind of love between two people is protective. Song of Solomon 1:13 indicates that it is protective
when they are separated and when they're together. Song of Solomon 1:13: "A bundle of myrrh is my well-beloved unto me; he shall lie all night
between my breasts." This is indicating a pouch bearing herbs which have an aromatic quality to them, and which remind this woman of her
particular love. While he is away from her, she carries this on a string around her neck, and it brings back fragrant memories of him, and
these have a protective, soothing, encouraging quality to her.
Song of Solomon 4:6: "Until the day breaks and the shadows flew away, I will go up to the mountain of myrrh and to the hill of frankincense."
This again indicates when they are separated. Now when they are together, in Song of Solomon 2:4, it is a different kind of protection: "He
brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love." There the man's protection is on the scene with her, providing.
Then, the love of a particular man and a particular woman is illustrated by the intimate relationship of the Lord and the Christian. This was
true of Israel in Jeremiah 3 that we read about earlier, and Ezekiel 16:8, 23. It's also true of the church in Ephesians 5:22-23. The
relationship of intimacy between God and His people reflects the relationship of a right man and his right woman.
Mental attitude sins stifle the expression of a particular man and a particular woman love. They don't fully enjoy each other, and then,
suddenly, one dies. Then they realize how their love had been stifled. As a matter of fact jealousy is singled out as a destructive force to
a particular man and a particular woman's love. This is a particularly devastating sin. It would be good if we stopped for a moment here and
had a summary of the doctrine of jealousy. There are several points that you should understand about jealousy which is supremely destructive
of genuine marital love.
Jealousy removes all happiness from the Christian.
Jealousy creates its own misery.
Jealousy brings out all the ugly features in a person's temperament. Whatever your weaknesses are, when you play the role of a jealous person,
the worst is going to come out.
Jealousy destroys a relaxed mental attitude, which is the basis of a friendship with a person. You can't be friendly with a person toward whom
you have this mental attitude of jealousy. As a matter of fact, it is a sin which is so great that there was a Levitical offering provided for
it alone. You can read about this in Numbers 5:11-31. This was a special offering for this particular sin.
Jealousy will neutralize the love between a particular man and his particular woman (Song of Solomon 8:6).
Jealousy destroys a person's wellbeing (Job 5:2, Proverbs 14:30).
Jealous is the strongest of the mental attitudes sins (Proverbs 27:3-4).
It was jealousy that split the nation of Israel. Ephraim was jealous of Judah (Isaiah 11:13).
Jealousy is what motivated those who crucified Jesus Christ (Matthew 27:18, Mark 15:10).
Jealousy motivated the selling of Joseph into slavery by his brothers. Act 7:9.
Negative volition to the Word manifests itself in jealousy (Romans 1:28-29). People who are negative toward doctrine show it in jealousy.
Jealousy rejects the teachings of Bible doctrine (Acts 13:45 and Acts 17:5).
Jealousy motivates revenge (Proverbs 6:34).
Jealousy takes real or apparent wrongs out of the Lord's hands, and intrudes on the divine prerogative of exercising judgment. Jealousy wants
to be its own executer of justice (Romans 12:9, Deuteronomy 32:35).
Finally, false doctrine produces jealousy (1 Timothy 6:4). Here the words envy and jealousy are synonymous terms. So if you are absorbing
false doctrine, you're exposing yourself to jealousy. Absorbing sound doctrine stabilizes your mentality and enables you to handle the quality
The love of a particular man and a particular woman is a grace gift from God. Proverbs 18:22 says, "Whoever finds a wife finds a good thing
and obtains favor from the Lord." Now the translation is not exactly right here because a person who finds a wife does not necessarily find
a good thing. Many people are ignorant concerning the nature of true love, which is a mental attitude free of ill will, which is the divine
quality of love, which is the basis of marriage. People who don't understand this are very prone to pick people who are wrong marriage partners.
So, a man may get a wife who is not the wife that God has designed for him, and he's not going to find a good thing. He is going to find a
very miserable thing.
The translation here should actually read: "Whoever finds the right woman receives grace from the Lord." The right woman
is a grace gift from God. That's the only way you receive the right person--as a grace gift from God. That's the way Adam received Eve, because
God prepared her and brought her to him. And, that's how you're going to find the right one that God has for you. You don't have to hustle
around. You don't have to experiment. You don't have to run around and constantly be looking under every bush and every rock to see what you
can find. When God, in His time, is ready, He will bring together you and the person he has designed for you. It's a grace gift.
God has set aside time in each life for the love of a particular man and a particular woman, this special kind of love. In Ecclesiastics 3:8,
we have the expression, "There is a time to love." God supplies a person and the time, and this provision can be ruined by your refusing to wait
for the right one. It can be ruined by drugs. It can be ruined by premarital sex. It can be ruined by a mental attitude sins. All of these
attack your soul and can destroy what God intends for you to have.
Marriage sanctifies and is the framework of a particular man and a particular woman's love. 1 Thessalonians 4:3-4: "This is the will of God,
even your sanctification, that you should abstain from fornication; that every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in
sanctification and in honor." Hebrews 13:4: "Marriage is honorable in all and the bed undefiled. But fornicators and adulteries God will judge."
So marriage sanctifies, and it's the framework of this kind of love.
Finally, a particular woman's love is the glory of her own particular man (1 Corinthians 11:7). In 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, we have some marks of
mental attitude love, and that's what we've been talking about--the nature of true love. Here are 15 identifying marks of mental attitude love:
It wouldn't be a bad idea to get these 15 marks of mental attitude love clearly in mind so that they will be programmed into your being as a
guide for your own direction and your own experience as you meet, in time, the one that God has for you.
It endures long.
It is kind.
It is free of jealousy.
It is not conceited.
It is not unmannerly.
It is not self-seeking.
It is not irritable.
It does not demand its rights.
It does not take pleasure in injustice.
It sides happily with the truth.
It covers up.
It has unquenchable faith.
It always maintains hope.
It endures without limit and it never fades.
So what we have said is that when the Bible speaks of love, it is not the same thing as sex. Love here in the Scripture is a mental attitude. It
is a quality that God calls upon us to have. The Bible never tells you to love your enemies with the "phileo" emotional love, because you
cannot command emotions. But the Bible does say to love your enemies with this "agapao" (the "agape" type of love). This love is a mental
attitude, and over this we have control. We are to function on sound doctrine, and that means daily intake of the Word of God so we live
on it, as Jesus said, "By every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God," just like a person lives by bread on a daily basis. When we
are functioning on the Word of God on this basis, we are programmed to be able to express this kind of love. Out of it comes our physical
expression which reaches its maximum pleasure and blessing and happiness when that expression is found with the particular person that God
has designed for you to share this mental attitude love. Learn the nature of true love. It's the beginning of a lifetime of happiness.
Dr. John E. Danish, 1970
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