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Inspiration for Today’s Devotional: “The Cutie Map”

As today’s episode introduces in the figure of Starlight Glimmer, an important principle that one has to learn as they go from childhood to adulthood is that evil isn’t obvious. The devil doesn’t run around in red pajamas carrying a pitchfork cackling and twirling a pointy tail that we would easily recognize him. Likewise, people with bad intentions and evil motives don’t dress like Darth Vader or Snidely Whiplash, and they don’t chortle and scheme like Skeletor and Gargamel.

More often, they appear like Starlight Glimmer: simple, friendly, harmless, and even outwardly good-natured. Inside, however, they’re, to paraphrase Psalm 10:7, “full of curses, deceit, and oppression”. Starlight came off as someone wise, caring, responsible, and only wanting the good of the community and to make everyone “friends”. In truth she was a cruel, hateful, spiteful, controlling, and sick individual who desired only to dominate others into being forced to live in her community under her rules. And with an outer appearance and demeanor like hers, it was easy for her to keep the illusion that she was just another member of her community and not a tyrannical and domineering dictator.

There are a lot of “Starlight Glimmers” in the world, unfortunately. In fact, there’s definitely more of them than “Lord Tireks”, or individuals who are hostile, cruel, and toxic and yet overtly so and therefore ease to spot. One of the biggest threats to the early Church aside from persecution by the Romans and religious leaders of the day came from within in the form of false teachers and prophets who attracted people with their contrary message. It wasn’t long before Paul seemed to devote more time to encouraging the Christian community to be on guard against them rather than the very real threat of the Roman Empire. As he says about them in 2 Corinthians 11:13-15, “For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds.” In other words, the Romans and religious leaders didn’t have to be worried about in the sense of “sneaking in” to the community because they were overtly hostile. It was individuals like this who were more subtle, more cunning, “disguised as angels of light” to be wary of.

For today’s message, however, I’d like to go one step further. As I said, there are many controlling people in the world. There are many individuals who have their own agenda and manipulate and twist others to do it for them. And once they have them “hooked”, they proceed to keep them under their thumb through abuse and manipulation. This can take the form of direct abuse, such as dominating the person physically or telling them how worthless, weak, ugly, stupid, etc. they are without them; or it can take the form of subtle threats, such as how not supporting them or their agenda will lead to a negative outcome for everyone, stating how important they are to a group or community, or, as unfortunately is the case in many religious communities, professing themselves to have been ordained by a word from God and that to go against them is to go against divine authority and is therefore a sin.

Yet the reason these individuals are so successful at what they do is because there are many hearts and ears open to their message. Take this episode for example. Starlight Glimmer was indeed cruel and controlling, but, unlike with the Mane Six, she didn’t seize the members of her community and force them to live there initially. She exploited the fact that they were friendless by convincing them that they had to give up any special talents or individuality they had and embrace a cult philosophy of sameness, or they would remain alone and miserable. They had a need they had to fill, she offered a false way to fill it that bound them to her rather than satisfied their need, and if they thought of rebelling against her she used that false need to intimidate them into obedience.

In other words, while Starlight may have been the aggressor, the ones who should have been more on guard and known better were the members of her community. Had they been been more wary and wise, they would have realized the commune was nothing but an excuse to give Starlight control over everyone and existed to service her rather than to serve the ones living there. That was their responsibility, just as it is for every mature, independent, and self-governing adult…and Christian.

The world will always have people who wish to control others in it. There will always be those who seek to prey on the weaknesses and frailties of others and use them as a means to control and manipulate. We can’t control that, but we can be aware of it and on guard about it. Most importantly, we can take account of our own weaknesses and failings and be on guard when someone or something is appealing to them. Don’t ever underestimate the power of a message being told to you that is saying something that you “want to hear”, or the power that such an individual saying that can have over you.

As the Bible encourages, the best defense against this is to become mature and “perfect” in every area, grounding ourselves on the firm foundation of Christ, taking constant account of our weaknesses and strengths, and, as John encouraged in his first letter (4:1), “test the spirits”…both in what could be misleading prophetic messages as well as the more “man-made” variety that preach a contrary gospel. Let this especially be true in cases in which the individual is threatening punishments for going against them.

As cautioned in 1 Peter 5:8, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” I owe it to myself not to “look tasty”.

Suggested Prayer: “Lord God, thank you for truth and principals for healthy living as found in your Word, the Bible, especially in regards to needing to be vigilant to those who would seek to manipulate and control us in our moments of weakness and doubt. Please help me to always be mindful about what I hear and who I choose to place my trust in, making sure that what they say is in accord with your Word and is not simply appealing to a desire, fear, bias, or weakness that I have. And help me to grow more complete in every way so that I will be like Christ in all ways, including in not allowing anyone to take advantage of me and in recognizing evil. Gratefully in Jesus’ Name, Amen.”