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Inspiration for Today’s Devotional: “Castle Mane-Ia”

It’s a funny thing to find yourself talking one way about a situation when far removed from it, only to find you’re singing a much different tune when actually in that situation. That can definitely be said of the Mane Six in this episode. From contests about who can be the bravest to dismissing superstitions and myths, the girls were for the most part pretty confident heading into the abandoned Castle of the Two Sisters. But when night fell and it grew darker and spookier, it didn’t take long for skewed perceptions to give way to anxiety, fear, fright, and eventually running wild. True, the girls did learn there was nothing in the castle to be scared of eventually, but it was one thing to profess that while outside and another to do the same while inside the castle on a dark and stormy night.

The same is pretty much true of a lot of superstition and fears. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I feel much more at ease reading a book of scary stories in the daylight in a public library rather than home alone at night, especially if it is windy and stormy. I imagine during the day most of us are fine, especially if someone is around others, and the thoughts of people jumping at shadows or fearful of ghosts, ghouls, or urban legends seems rather silly and childish. But some nights, when I’m alone, it’s quiet, the house is dark, and I hear a noise somewhere inside it that I can’t explain…I might find myself checking behind the shower curtain when I head into the bathroom to brush and floss or somesuch.

The bottom line: it’s easy to laugh at someone else’s reaction or dismiss it as silly, dumb, or even unreasonable when I’m not in the same situation. I find myself in it, and I might be singing a different tune.

I say this a bit tongue-in-cheek, but probably the most favorite verse in the Bible for non-Christians is Matthew 7:1, in which Lord Jesus said: “Judge not, that you be not judged.” Usually this is misapplied as saying it’s wrong to ever criticize anyone or call out anyone’s sin or wrongdoing. That in itself is a failure to take the whole Bible into account as well as a distortion. (For example…if someone tells me he wants to rape and murder someone else, should I just shrug and say: “Oh well, I won’t judge you.”?) But generally it does apply. We should never be too quick to immediately set ourselves on a pedestal above others and look down our noses at them, because odds are if we’re in a similar circumstance we might find ourselves have the same failings just as easily.

A good Biblical example is in the Old Testament in the Exodus from Egypt. We’ve all heard the story a hundred times. How the ancient Israelites that were personally delivered from Egyptian slavery by God himself took pretty much any and every opportunity to doubt that God was powerful enough to save and deliver them and constantly looked for opportunities to rebel and return to Egypt. I used to think these people were the worst in the Bible. How could they doubt God after seeing all the plagues of Egypt, watching the Red Sea split in two, being guided by the pillar of cloud and pillar of flame, hearing the voice of Yahweh at Sinai, and being fed by bread from Heaven itself? In my younger days, I was even arrogant enough to say: “Well, I’m nothing like that. I’m not nearly that stupid or blind. At least I have that going for me.”

What I should have been paying attention to was the lesson behind it. If those people were able to forget God so easily after seeing undeniable miracles that have never been seen since, they how easy will it be for someone like me to do the same in this day and age? How easy will it be to dismiss the blessings in my own life? Or show no gratitude whenever God helps me in a dangerous situation? I realized I never had to flee a country that I had lived in my whole life as well as my parents and their parents, set across a vast wasteland with nothing but God’s promise, and been exposed on every side to enemies and threats both natural and in the form of hostile nations. I could feed myself rather than relying on water from rocks and bread from Heaven. I live in a house, not a tent that I’m not sure if I’ll have to strike today or hold out waiting for God’s presence to move. My family lives fairly secure. And yet how many times have I complained that I was miserable or had nothing, or griped and moaned in a minor financial difficulty? And after I had supposedly entrusted God with everything?

Of course, that’s only one example. The same can apply to any time in which we as Christians are feeling “uppity” and compare ourselves to others. Whether it be drug addicts, thieves, those with low income and education, the sexually or morally deviant, or even members in our own Church community who don’t have the best reputations. I always figured the main reason shows like “Jerry Springer” were so popular was because it made the viewers feel so much better about themselves. “As bad as I am, at least I’m not them.”

While sin is sin and needs to be called out for it, I have no right to call myself better or “holier than” anyone else. There are many people in the world living in terrible circumstances (racked with poverty, abused by family members or those around them, and/or are socially stigmatized) and they make the right decision in spite of these things every day. I’ve been blessed immensely and I still make the blatantly wrong choice from my own willfulness and wickedness. So who am I to try to declare anyone else lesser than me?

In Matthew 23:12, Jesus said: “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” Again, while we shouldn’t try to abide blatant sin, we should never look at an individual or group of people and declare them personally to be “beyond saving” or far below us in terms of holiness. We’re all sinners in the eyes of God, and we never know when we might be put to the test and found wanting under similar, or even better, circumstances.

Suggested Prayer: “Lord God, thank you for putting up with me in all my times of weakness and being ready to forgive my failures and shortcomings when I confess my sin to you. Help me to remember the grace you have bestowed on me through the sacrifice of Lord Jesus; especially when I’m dealing with others and I’m quick to judge or condemn them personally. Help me never to abide sin, but remember when dealing with other people that I too have fallen short many times, and let that humility govern my actions, responses, and my view of others. Gratefully in Jesus’ Name, Amen.”