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Inspiration for Today’s Devotional: “Daring Done?”

Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie encounter A.K. Yearling a.k.a Daring Do in a rather bad spot of depression in this episode. It turns out while most of her heroic exploits in the far off corners of Equestria go admired and heralded by her fans, the locals in the areas she leaves behind in her wake are less than enthused from the collateral damage. Having never stopped to think about the side effects of her adventuring, Daring is left wondering if she has, in fact, been doing more harm than good when she overhears the anger of local residents toward the consequences of her fights with thugs and accidental mishaps on local landmarks. And while most of her adventures ended up having a lot of benefits in the form of stopping power-hungry villains and keeping thieves from grabbing historical treasures, the criticisms  from locals who never experienced them firsthand grow so loud she thinks of throwing in the towel all together.

While in this episode it turned out some of the criticism was due to Dr. Cabelleron’s shenanigans, and Daring Do did end up making amends for some of her damage in the finale, in a more general sense it illustrates a larger dilemma faced by most everyone. If you make a stand for anything, if you take a side on anything, or if you do anything that causes you to step out from the norm or take a more activist role, you’re not only going to face criticism…you’re going to have it pointed out and rubbed in your face why you’re wrong.

I’ll pick on a few social issues. The death penalty, for example. A lot of people are against it and with good reason; namely the sheer number of inmates who had been eligible for the death penalty when they received a sentence of life in prison who ended up being found innocent after decades of serving wrongful sentences. Or the fact that the death penalty is heavily race and gender biased. Proponents, however, will counter with how overcrowded prisons are, how expensive it is to keep inmates alive, the fact that there are at least some people who are consummate, unrepentant killers, and even the fact that there are places in the world so corrupt that escaping from prison is a relatively small matter (“El Chapo” comes to mind). If any of these escapees end up killing someone else, you can bet that the proponents will accuse the anti-death penalty crowd of having “blood on their hands”.

Having less ramifications but no less contentious is universal, government-provided health care. Individuals opposed to it cite the tax increases it will need to support it, the fact that it will reduce competition as government-run agencies need no accountability or profits, and the fact that it will give government the ability to start regulating everything from amounts of sugar in our food to how much exercise we have to do in order to be eligible for certain tax rates. Yet critics would argue, and rightly so, that our current system has led to sky-rocketing medical care costs for care that is much cheaper to receive in many other countries, and leaves economically disadvantaged people with no way to pay for medical care as they are forced to let themselves and their families get sicker or overload ERs. Whoever ends up seriously ill or even dead from an easily treatable cause that could have been prevented is an argument in favor of trying at least something new that will give care to everyone.

For the Christian, the criticisms are all too evident and widespread. Christians claim they want to heal everyone in the world, both emotionally and spiritually as well as physically, by being the living representatives of Jesus Christ and to lead them to Him for salvation from sins. We profess that Christ is the only hope for a doomed world and that forming a relationship with Him will lead everyone to have life and have it more abundantly. “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12) “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10b) And yet, critics will point out just how flawed most Christians are–all of our weaknesses, all of our screw-ups, and especially all of the times Christianity was just another title slapped over some form of a oppressor. Whether it be against the Crusaders, white supremacists, Puritans, or Conquistadors, critics of Christianity can make the claim that Christians have brought more misery, hate, injustice, and intolerance to the world rather than less. They argue how we can claim to have such a world-saving message or to be the “light of the world” if we only “make things darker”.

All Christians…at least, those who are truly trying to be honest with themselves…will concede that they are far from perfect. They’re still in the flesh and reliant completely on Christ’s Sacrifice to justify them; realizing even after accepting our Lord that by our own efforts we are the very antithesis of holy and saintly. But even then, when we are faced with this list of condemnations through the evidence of history and all those who did wrong in the name of Christianity, we may feel disheartened in our Christian walk. Like it or not, by taking on the name of “Christian” we will be counted by the world as the same as that number. And it may feel impossible to make an impact on some people in the wake of that.

At times like this, it is important to remember a couple things.

The first, and foremost to me, is to acknowledge that we as individuals are not our ancestors or even our fellow Christians. We are ourselves, and ultimately it is our own actions we are accountable for. If we feel that we are being judged by the standard of the worst individuals ever to hold the title “Christian”, then we owe it to those same people who we happen to pass by not just to go into the same old tirade of “those weren’t ‘real’ Christians”, but far more importantly to show them what a real Christian is like. If we feel Christians of the past did wrong, then it’s up to us to show how different someone who genuinely follows the Word of God is, and most importantly how Lord Jesus Christ is really like. Otherwise, we’re nothing more than argumentative and, as the old saying goes, “talk is cheap”. I dare say it is even a weighty responsibility, as we might be the only example of a Christian someone will ever see at a key time in their life.

The second (if you’re already doing the first part and still see no change in opinion) is to remember an important fact: no one ever changes anything in the world without making enemies. If the planet could naturally change into something better without opposition, it would already be there. The world is the way it is because some (possibly many) people like it how it is right now even if it means injustice, oppression, or misery for some, and they won’t like things changing away from that at least at first. Look at history and you will see that no one ever did a single thing that changed the world for good or evil that didn’t make a lot of people mad…or even violent. And many people in history who are considered heroes by us, either as Christians or whatever nationality we hail from, are considered villains by many others even to this very day.  You will never please everyone, which is why no one should go through life making decisions with the intention of being loved by everybody. Rather, as Christians, our focus should ultimately be on pleasing God. “On the contrary, we speak as those approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please people but God, who tests our hearts.” (1 Thessalonians 2:4)

And at times that will mean displeasing everyone else…including other Christians. For that reason also, it is important to never neglect one’s devotional life and relationship with God, nor to fail to critically examine ourselves from time to time to see where we are at. Not doing so can quickly lead to the foundation of our faith not being based on the Gospel but on what other people “tell us the Gospel is”.

While I do not believe any Christian should ever go out of their way simply to antagonize others, we should realize if we follow God we will eventually whether intentionally or unintentionally. Therefore, always strive to maintain a clean conscience and honesty both with ourselves and with God. That way we will know we have pure motives and, as a result, we’ll know which criticism to take to heart and put the rest aside. Most importantly, we will know when to recognize that a ministry is not accomplishing its purpose, and when to have the faith to endure through a current trial for the good that it will do.

Suggested Prayer: “Lord God, thank you for your promise–not that we will live lives free from affliction and persecution even when we are doing good, but that you will deliver us from all that rises against us. Help me to be brave, courageous, and steadfast in times when I am confronting oppression as a result of seeking to do your will, and to instead cling more fiercely to your Word and guidance to see me through. And grant that I always seek your approval over that of mankind. Gratefully in Jesus’ Name, Amen.”