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Inspiration for Today’s Devotional: “Keep Calm and Flutter On”

It seems like it should be a given for a Christian, but in reality it’s something difficult. While we should always be ready to forgive, a much more troubling question is the same one that goes on in today’s episode between Fluttershy and Discord: “When should someone be given a second chance?”

Most people in the world take the position of the majority of the Mane Six; which is that at some point a lifetime of crimes or magnitude of wickedness negates the need to even put one’s best foot forward and to just dismiss people outright. Others, like Fluttershy, believe that the key to getting people to change is to be gracious and kind to them in hopes that they “see the light”. I won’t argue necessarily that either way is an absolute; but I will say the majority of people see those who have the latter viewpoint as idealistic at best and childishly foolish at worst. In some cases, that viewpoint may be justified.

David Berkowitz, better known infamously as the Son of Sam serial killer, claims to have converted to Christianity in prison, stated he felt he deserves to remain in prison the rest of his life for his crimes and disposition, and now runs a ministry inside it. It’s highly unlikely that anyone would want him out of prison to be given a second chance at a normal life in spite of these things. Likewise, in the case of many criminals who go to prison, we would like them there for the protection of others if nothing else; especially in the cases of criminals who are mentally ill or dangerous to society at large. If someone has been abusive to us, even if we forgive them later on for it, it’s unlikely that we’ll want to be around them again to give them an opportunity for more abuse. If someone lied to us or betrayed secrets, even if we forgive them it will likely be a while before we wish to entrust them with anything of ours again. Even the world is set up to penalize people who have criminal records via criminal background checks, even if they have “done their time and paid their dues”.

So what does this mean for the Christian? Is this a sign of being practical and realistic that we should emulate? Should we be rising above all of this and be the first to extend a chance for redemption when society won’t? Is there ever a time we should not?

The Bible definitely encourages forgiveness, as I’ve pointed out in other devotionals. Jesus stated in Luke 17:4, “and if (your brother) sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.” He actually used the imperative must in that situation. This act is not only for our own salvation in forgiving others as we wish to be forgiven (see Matthew 18:21-35 for the infamous parable of the unforgiving servant), but, as I’ve mentioned before, it’s often as much for our benefit as it is for others. Yet it’s important to note that Jesus was always forgiving of those who sought mercy and repentance; but not so much those who stubbornly clung to their sins, such as the religious leaders of the day. It’s also important to note that Jesus had many followers, but He didn’t entrust Himself to everyone in the crowds that flocked to Him (John 2:23-25). (And with good reason, when we see that many of the same individuals who praised Him on Palm Sunday went on to demand His crucifixion on Good Friday.) It was only toward His more intimate disciples that He took aside and explained everything more clearly (Mark 4:34).

However, when it comes to people who genuinely want repentance, I think the Bible does encourage us to go farther than the world would. That’s only fitting as we are called to be more than just “everyone else”, including in taking chances on people who society dismisses as worthless.

There’s a couple guidelines I’d follow.

First, I would consider what the scope of the chance for redemption is and who it impacts. I’d be much more willing to entrust someone who misused money I lent them or stole from me in the past with more of my money if they repented, than I would be willing to entrust someone who neglected children they were supposed to be watching or caring for with my children if they repented, even if I believed it both times. In the first case, I’m willing to take the risk of them stealing again to give them a chance to prove themselves because I’m the only one who will be hurt if things go wrong, and I’m willing to endure that for the sake of rebuilding faith in them. In the second case, however, I’m “volunteering” others to do the same and that ultimately must be their own choice, not mine.

Second, I would know the person on a more personal and intimate level. The closer I am to the person and the more of a relationship I have with them, the more likely I’ll know if they’re being genuine or not when they repent; whether it’s out of a desire to make amends or a desire to take advantage of me. I don’t think it’s any coincidence when I had trouble with my own family members that it was always the parents of the individual in the wrong who gave them a second chance when everyone else in the family was still shunning them. True, it didn’t always pan out, but when it did it was always due to them being the first ones to give them a second chance because they understood the individual better. When I was still thinking they were the same old people, they already knew they had changed because they had a much better relationship than I did.

Third and finally, I’d see what I myself am bringing to the mix. If I’m refusing to give a person a second chance even though I forgave them, I need to first make sure that I truly did forgive them to begin with and my refusal for a second chance is solely out of being responsible and rational rather than holding onto a grudge out of spite and anger. In the latter case, I might not have forgiven them at all and I now have my own problem to work out. If I have, however, I need to examine myself and see if the real reason I’m holding back is legitimate or out of my own skewed perception. Case in point: there are a lot of phony charities out there, but there’s also a lot of genuinely good ones that do a lot of good. Let’s say I gave a large amount of money to one that ended up being crooked and I found out it went to waste. While I would need to be more selective in the future in who I decide to donate to, using that event as an excuse to say “well, all charities should be crooked so I’ll never give them anything” or, worse yet, “I can’t trust others with money I donate so I won’t tithe just to be safe”, then it starts reaching the point where I’m using it as an excuse for my own greed and selfishness. If I ever so feel it’s right not to give someone a second chance at the time, it has to be because that’s the best thing for everyone involved and not merely due to my personal bias.

Suggested Prayer: “Lord God, thank you that you are always willing to forgive any and all who come to you with genuine repentance, no matter how many times they have sinned and fallen short. Please help me to do the same to everyone in my own life. Thank you also that you are a God of second chances. Please grant me the wisdom, courage, and discernment to give those who have wronged me and genuinely seek repentance the same. Gratefully in Jesus’ Name, Amen.”