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Inspiration for Today’s Devotional: “Slice of Life”
I’ve been re-reading the Old Testament lately. There’s a lot of reasons modern-day Christians tend to prefer sticking to the New Testament and avoiding that book, but, for me personally, the big part of the Old Testament that leaves me scratching my head is the appendices. Almost all of the historical books devote a great deal of time to lists of names of individuals who, more often than not, spend little time in the Bible other than to call out their names. The genealogies in the beginning are one thing, but there’s also lists of David’s warriors, lists of tribal heads and their children, lists of the tribes and families that came back from the Babylonian captivity, and even lists of the temple singers, musicians, and gatekeepers from the temple’s first founding by Solomon.
As a Christian, I believe 2 Timothy 3:16-17, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” But even the staunchest Christian might wonder what the purpose of those chapters are. I personally have never heard a single sermon using any of those lists of names as the Bible passage of choice. The odds are when they were first written they were considered very important to trace lineages to, as the readers of the book were likely direct descendants, but nowadays no one would be able to match themselves up to them. Even if they did, would it really help people be better Christians or live more godly lives?
However, when I tried to think of a message from today’s episode, I eventually ended up thinking of those lists again, and a thought occurred to me.
Today’s episode was all about highlighting the background characters. Characters who, on their best day, got a line or a brief interaction with one of the Mane Six, and the rest of the time just hung out behind everyone. So little is known about them that one of the favorite pastimes of the fandom is to make up stories about them, why they’re in that place at that time, and why they’re doing what they’re doing. Yet in this episode, the mayor took a moment out to highlight the importance of the stories of those in the background. In a very real sense, they gave the real life to the show. Sure, in the actual plot, they helped flesh out the world and universe, creating the environment and the circumstances for the main characters, but what was really valuable was the message to the fourth wall: that the lives the fans themselves assigned these characters, the desire to know their story and to see how it impacted the rest of the cast and world, made them an important part of the overall story as well.
I got to thinking about how many monuments we have around the country, whether it be to those who died in a war, or those who founded a town, or commemorating people who struck a foundation…all things that have lists of names inscribed on them. To most of us, they seem to be little more than that: names on a plaque or a podium. But it’s important to keep in mind that each one of those names represents a person. It’s hard to imagine many life spans aside from our own and, when we do, we usually think in terms of the present or our own families. But all of these people were individuals with their own lives. All of them knew what it meant to be hungry and well fed, hot and cold, to experience birth and death, and had lifetimes worth of experiences. Each one of them had opportunities to pick good and evil. Each one had their own “crosses to bear”. Some of them perhaps had it easier than me. Some of them had it harder.
Yet they were all much more than just a name. They had parents and, perhaps, children of their own. They had their own experiences growing up, working, meeting and interacting with people, watching games, attending social functions, and everything in between that happened in them. They had times where they likely felt empowered and times where they felt helpless; times where they felt all was well and times where they were in despair. They knew how to be young and confused and old and sensible. They loved and hated just as I do, and I’m sure they had moments where they regretted doing something or not doing something. Regardless of what tragedies or triumphs they had in their own lives, they contributed to the future. They either built something to last or built something that someone else added to or built off of. Even if they weren’t the “main character” in whatever time period they were in, they were still a part of it. They still changed the world around them, no matter how small or large their influence was, and whether it was for better or for worse, and shaped it for the next generation; who in turn built their own world based on that.
The fact is in the Bible, whether in the Old or New Testament, rarely were things done alone. There’s always great individuals who stand out and we aspire to them, but even they didn’t do things by themselves. Moses was accompanied by Aaron when going before Pharaoh, and when he led the Israelites through the desert he had his assistants. Joshua didn’t conquer Jericho and all of the other cities in Canaan alone. Neither David nor Saul managed to single-handedly defeat attacking Philistine armies. Nehemiah didn’t rebuild the walls of Jerusalem by himself, and Ezra didn’t restore the temple all by himself either. Lord Jesus spent time by Himself, but most of the time stayed with His disciples or, at minimum, His Apostles. Paul never traveled alone, and almost everywhere he stayed there were people who assisted him in his ministry.
Who were all these people? Obviously they didn’t command the renown or glory of those they assisted, but in many cases the greater figures relied on them or, in some cases, even commended them.Maybe these people weren’t great authorities or commanded power or prestige, but they were faithful in the ways God called them, however small they might have been. And as a result, their names, even if mentioned only once, are inscribed in the everlasting Word of God.
Perhaps they are there to be a testimony: that even the greatest figures of the Bible didn’t operate in a vacuum; that their story was largely, in part, the work of many other “background characters”.
Maybe we can’t be a Moses, David, or Paul. But every Christian, from the greatest to the least, is called to be “as Christ” in their own sphere of influence, no matter how great or how small. That includes me. It’s my responsibility to try and live as Christ in every way and to every one I meet every day of my life. And if I do so, I know I can make an eternal difference, whether it’s something that gets notarized world-wide, or something that simply “mentions my name in the records”.
Either way, each day we lay a bit more of the foundation of the Kingdom of God. Keep that in mind no matter where you find yourself in life or what part of what “story” you find yourself in.
Suggested Prayer: “Lord God, thank you for including me as part of your Eternal Plan and giving me the honor of bringing the Kingdom of God to this world, no matter in what way; large or small. Help me to keep this mind no matter where I am or where I go, remembering always that whatever I do is a gift to you. Gratefully in Jesus’ Name, Amen.”