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Inspiration for Today’s Devotional: “Rainbow Falls”

 

In this episode, Rainbow Dash is faced with the dilemma of needing to choose between racing with the team from her town or racing with the Wonderbolts in the upcoming Friendship Games. In doing so, she also finds the merit of her characteristic loyalty being put to the test. Clearly, she values loyalty and being there for her teammates, but she also values the chance at being a Wonderbolt and flying on a winning team. The Cloudsdale team in this episode clearly thinks little of sidelining its own lesser-performing team members so long as they can get the fastest group out of it, so it’s clearly not a model for team loyalty or faithfulness…yet they’re always the big winners. Most of all, I’m sure not just Rainbow Dash but most individuals would like to be on a team destined to win the gold rather than on one that has little chance of success.

I’m not sure about the textbook definition, but, to me, the way I define “loyalty” can be either a virtue or a fault. Faithfulness is what the Bible encourages; in particular faithfulness to God. The big crime of Israel in the Old Testament is constant lack of faithfulness in spite of God’s presence and power. Faith, at least to me, is believing in someone or that something will happen and holding firm even in the midst of danger and trouble making it seem that that individual or something won’t come through. Loyalty, on the other hand, is putting faith in an individual or greater design even when there is no indication of any future benefit. Because of this, loyalty can be misplaced. If one’s political party begins to change to an immoral stance, one should not only be disloyal but should break off from it. The same with a family member who does self-destructive behavior (although one could argue the more devoted thing to do in that case is show tough love). Or to a friend who takes advantage of you for their own benefit.

However, while faithfulness continues to be emphasized in the New Testament, I think that’s the portion of the Bible where loyalty is really hammered home as a virtue. In the Old Testament, there was a guarantee attached to whoever would remain faithful to God and obey the Law of Moses. “And if you faithfully obey the voice of the Lord your God, being careful to do all his commandments that I command you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth. And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, if you obey the voice of the Lord your God. Blessed shall you be in the city, and blessed shall you be in the field. Blessed shall be the fruit of your womb and the fruit of your ground and the fruit of your cattle, the increase of your herds and the young of your flock. Blessed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl. Blessed shall you be when you come in, and blessed shall you be when you go out.” (Deuteronomy 28:6).

By comparison, Christians are warned in the New Testament not only to not expect an immediate reward for following God, but, more likely, an immediate shunning and punishment from the world. “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles. When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.” (Matthew 10:16-22). “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household.” (Matthew 10:34-36). The New Testament emphasizes again and again how much Christians must suffer for the Gospel, and, on top of all that, there’s no promise of success either immediate or in the future. Even if one devotes themselves to being a missionary or evangelist, there’s no guarantee that they won’t immediately be killed by the people they’re ministering to within a couple years. (In fact, that has happened a number of times in history.) The only guarantee given is if someone stays true to the faith until they end that they will have salvation for themselves. 

I think even the best of us would find this daunting at times. In weaker moments, when I’m feeling especially low, I wonder what advantage it is for me to try and pursue the faith when I feel I’ll always be ineffective anyway. If I’m self-sacrificing and yet seeing no “payoff” or good result of my self-sacrifice, then why should I bother? Is this even the right thing I should be doing? Wouldn’t I be better off trying some other way or even taking care of myself?

Well, to me, the best example of loyalty displayed in the New Testament is Lord Jesus Christ Himself. As those who read the Gospels know, in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prayed fervently to God to deliver Him from the upcoming crucifixion if possible, although in the end He prayed that not His will but God’s will be done. One can argue that Jesus, knowing everything, had the advantage of knowing once it was finished He would be granted eternal glory, all dominion and power, and a Name above all other names. However, Jesus was also fully man at that point, and He knew full well He was going to have to bear the guilt, shame, and misery of every sin in all of human history past, present, and future. He also knew that it was God’s will to make Him suffer the ultimate penalty for each one of those sins, and that after having known God His entire life and always had him near and done what was pleasing to him, God was going to respond by making Him suffer more than any human had ever suffered, and, according to the Bible, God was pleased to do that. Yet even in that darkest of situations, Jesus persevered.

Some might argue it was because of Jesus’ own great faith or reliance on God, but I think it was a bit more than that. What made the difference in loyalty here, and what ultimately made the difference in all the displays of sacrifice and loyalty in the New Testament, was a strong love for God. Just as Rainbow Dash eventually realized it was a better thing to be loyal to “losers” who loved and cared about you than to “winners” who backstabbed their own teammates to win, both Jesus as well as the early Christians were willing to suffer out of love for God and for others, and to display that love through their acts of loyalty and obedience. Even if it might not gather an immediate reward or one in the future, it was something they could do for those they cared about now to show their devotion and affection. And in the end, that was worth it even if there was the chance that it would never see a result.

That’s the sort of loyalty I pray I, and every Christian, can embody.

Suggested Prayer: “Lord God, thank you once again for the gift of your Son, Lord Jesus Christ, who remained faithful and loyal to you to the point of death on a cross and thereby granted salvation for myself and all the world. Grant that I may be strong enough to show the same loyalty to you and to all my loved ones, regardless of what the cost is to me. Gratefully in Jesus’ Name, Amen.”

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