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Inspiration for Today’s Devotional: “Fame and Misfortune”

In today’s episode, Twilight Sparkle hits on a new idea she hopes will help all ponies across Equestria with friendship problems by publishing the old friendship journal she and her friends used to keep up. Unfortunately, things soon turn disastrous as a result. It seems every pony in Equestria reads something “different” into it. One misinterprets Rarity as being completely self-centered and mean. Another misinterprets everything Pinkie Pie says as funny. Still another demands that Fluttershy justify all of her individual negative character traits. Yet another thinks Rainbow Dash is “better” than everyone else…and so on and so forth. In the course of doing so, everypony misses the point of the journal completely. It’s only a pair of small fillies who end up getting what the journal was going for out of everyone else in Ponyville.

Unlike most other Christians, I believe that our society needs some measure of “political correctness”. I feel everyone is entitled to at least some amount of respect, if for no other reason than that is the tradeoff for a polite society and obeying the Golden Rule. But political correctness has gone too far in modern times, as it’s no longer about showing respect to other people at all but a means of silencing people. In a world where everyone has grown to believe their opinion is worth more than it is, many people have reached the point where they feel they have a right not to “be offended”; as if being offended is somehow an act of external immorality on someone’s part.

It’s true that there are things that are put up with the explicit desire to offend people. Racial epitaphs or symbols, explicit imagery, or pure hate speak condemning a group of people…all of those are designed to incite anger and express hate. The problem is nowadays even the slightest thing that is unintentional can cause things to grind to a halt and demand for change. Wearing a Cat-in-the-Hat hat is suddenly racial. Game developers are suddenly offending an entire country if they use the wrong slang term on a sign in the background. Even the word “history” is suddenly gender biased because it says the word “his” in it. (Does that mean I have to say “ther” when I mean “this” now?)

As this episode illustrated, anyone can find anything wrong with what you say or do. They can always misrepresent it and claim a wrong motive. And nowadays, they can put that opinion everywhere and find like-minded individuals to say the same thing. Occasionally, it can get savage and mean. Yet the part that scares me is that, more often than not, people end up apologizing and changing to accommodate the people who complain. They catch themselves up in a never-ending cycle to “please everyone” and leave no one upset. That, unfortunately, is a dangerous precedent to follow. Yes, there are some things that genuinely do merit an apology. Yet to apologize for something that genuinely had no ill intent in it and try to change the world to accommodate the “offended” is essentially making everyone cater to their whims and, occasionally, their biases and imaginations. Especially if the person already has a mindset against something, for in that case no amount of apology or censorship will ever be sufficient. And for many people, they use that as a tool to completely silence all opposition period. After all, if “being offended” becomes an act of immorality itself, then you can shut down an opposing viewpoint for even existing.

Where does it end? At what point do we think something is so unreasonable that we tell someone, “I’m sorry, but that wasn’t my intention. You’ll just have to ignore it.”?

I don’t know if it will end any time soon, but there’s an important lesson we can learn from it right now. We should realize that someone will always, always, always see something wrong in what we say or do. If you’re a Christian witnessing the Gospel, that’s a given. We know it all too well. But they’ll do the same for everything else. Say you want to let some refugees into the country and you’ll be accused of promoting terrorism. Say you want to allow people to own guns and you’ll be accused of being a murderer. Say you’re against abortion and you’ll be accused of wanting to make women second-class citizens/slaves. Say that police acted inappropriately shooting an unarmed man to death and you’ll be accused of wanting lawlessness. Say that you voted for Donald Trump and you’ll be kicked out of your local YMCA (the last one actually did happen to my father after nearly 20 years of attendance and donations).

The important thing is not to care so much about what people say your motive is as to know what your motive is. Jesus was constantly accused of saying things that were all together untrue. “Jesus was driving out a demon that was mute. When the demon left, the man who had been mute spoke, and the crowd was amazed. But some of them said, “By Beelzebul, the prince of demons, he is driving out demons.”” (Luke 11:14-15) “A second time they summoned the man who had been blind. “Give glory to God by telling the truth,” they said. “We know this man[Jesus] is a sinner.”” (John 9:24) “The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for false evidence against Jesus so that they could put him to death. But they did not find any, though many false witnesses came forward.” (Matthew 26:59-60a) It never stopped Him because He knew exactly what He was about and His intentions. After that, He left it up to whether some people would accept what He said and some people wouldn’t; and ultimately it was all about the people who would accept it. He never changed the message for the people that needed to hear it for the people who didn’t want to hear it at all.

Whenever you find yourself speaking boldly about something important and being assaulted for the wrong motive, always remember to be respectful and calm (for by getting angry and defensive you’re merely playing right into their hands), but so long as your motives are pure and true keep on going. Remember that it is inevitable that people will assign false motives to you. That’s life. Or, as Winston Churchill once said, “You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.” As with so many uncontrollable things in life, our response matters more than whether or not it will occur, which is why we should care more about what we say than how some people will react.

And for that reason, equally important is to also make sure our own hearts are in line at all times…both to make sure the words we speak are good as well as to avoid the sickness of distorting what we hear to suit our own agenda. As the Bible says, “A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” (Luke 6:45) Therefore, let’s all make sure our hearts stay full of good things.

Suggested Prayer: “Lord God, thank you that your Word is right and true, and contains the ways of eternal life to all who are able to hear it with a clean heart and let it “bear fruit”. Whether I am proclaiming your Word, explaining a viewpoint, sharing advice, or admonishing someone, please let my motives always be pure and in tune with your Will. And when opposition inevitably comes, let my focus always be more on quality of my message over the whims of society. Gratefully in Jesus’ Name, Amen.”