A Matter of Principals, Bible, devotional, empathy, equity, fairness, forgiveness, generosity, God, inspirational, Jesus, justice, kindness, mercy, motivational, My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, New Testament, Old Testament, saints, sinners
Inspiration for Today’s Devotional: “A Matter of Principals”
By the time this episode rolled around, most fans were, to put it bluntly, getting tired of Discord’s nonsense. The ponies certainly were too. Long after Twilight made her sacrifice for him at the end of Season Four, his behavior and demeanor were still largely antisocial and selfish, he continued to suffer from a severe lack of empathy for other individuals, and his constant “pranks” were often only to get a cruel laugh at the expense of the misery of others.
As a result, a number of viewers were a bit upset when, after Discord made a constant and even dangerous nuisance of himself around the School of Friendship during Starlight Glimmer’s brief tenure as headmare (which in and of itself ended up being the result of one of his acts of trolling), she nevertheless chose to sympathize with him on realizing he had acted this way out of feeling left out and acquiesced to it by letting him assist her as “vice headmare”. Some saw that as tantamount to him getting away with murder–actually being rewarded for his atrocious behavior and his utter lack of concern for the welfare or respect of others. I have to admit I was one of those folks.
But after a particular sermon in my own church this past weekend and thinking it over, I began to see Starlight’s point of view.
I took up a habit last year of praying for countries where Christians are persecuted, choosing one a night to pray for. As part of that, I look up the country in question and research it a bit to see what the situation is. I’d like to warn anyone in advance who wants to do the same thing that it requires a bit of a sober mind. (It will quickly make you very grateful for just how much privilege Christians in the Western world enjoy and how not to take that for granted.) I am often horrified, shocked, saddened, and even discouraged when I read just how much Christians have to endure in other parts of the world with little to no means of redress.
Most of the times that I’ve prayed for these people I’ve focused on the victims, i.e. Christians. I’ve asked them to be delivered from their oppressors, for God to manifest his power on their behalf (as indeed they have no human help to rely on), and, occasionally, that they will find opportunities to share the Gospel even in their dire situations. By comparison, when it comes to their oppressors, I often ask that Christians be shielded and delivered from them and that’s about it. And honestly that’s usually the best I can manage…especially on some nights when I read about oppressors who engage in religious apartheid or conduct acts of violence and terror like ISIL. (In fact, on those occasions, I have to struggle particularly hard to even think of the oppressors as human as well as several other, shall we say, severely “Un-Christian” things.)
It wasn’t until this weekend, however, thinking about this message and this episode, that I began to wonder if some nights I’m praying for the wrong people.
When I, or most of us, pray for people, it’s usually for believers in need or friends and loved ones in need. Occasionally it’s for nonbelievers if they’re close to us. However, it’s rarely for the “Discords” of the world. Not for those who stubbornly cling to “doing bad”, who go out of their way to oppress and hurt others (Christians or otherwise), who have no desire to repent or change, and are generally people that we believe the world can do without. These are the sort of individuals who, like with Starlight, we would question the sanity or even fairness of others who endeavored a kind word or favor to them; knowing they did nothing to merit it and will likely continue on whatever wicked or harmful way they’re on in perfect ingratitude when they receive it.
Yet as I stopped to think, I realized that the very Christians who I was praying for had their own salvation assured. No matter what evil or wickedness befell them, at the end of the day they had a crown of glory and eternal life to look forward to. Their oppressors, on the other hand, were walking a damned path that would lead to destruction…not only of others but to their own harm in this life and eternally to come. Each act of violence, repression, hate, and unrepentance they committed would end up hurting themselves far worse and far longer one day. And the worst part was many of them, especially ones who subscribed to religious terrorism, had been deluded into thinking they were somehow doing acts of righteousness.
Lord Jesus Himself stated that He came not to call the righteous but sinners (Luke 5:32). He also stated that those who were well didn’t need a physician, but the sick did (Mark 2:17). On the Cross at Cavalry, one of the last things He was ever recorded saying in His mortal life was calling for forgiveness of His executors (Luke 23:34). Lastly, one of His greatest challenges to His disciples was to be generous and loving to their enemies.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:38-48).
Lord Jesus never went around preparing vengeance or justice to unleash upon the wicked and unrepentant of the world, and He never encouraged His disciples to do so either. Instead, He commanded His disciples to rise above their own hate and fear in their treatment of their own enemies. After all, even sinners are the creation of God and his beloved children. A very sobering, and potentially difficult, thought to meditate on is that God is the God of both the righteous as well as the wicked.
Even if love for one’s enemies fails to win them over, it’s still the “god-like” thing to do; showing love, care, and concern for everyone whether they appreciate it or not, just as God does. It also frees us from what is binding us in the same situation; such as harboring anger, resentment, bitterness, and a desire for revenge. As such, loving and caring even for one’s enemies is both for the benefit of the sinner as well as the “saint”.
Now, this isn’t to say that I can expect to go up to someone who is a mass murderer with a big hug and a “Jesus loves you!” and expect them to miraculously see the light and convert on the spot. What it does mean, however, is that I should show more concern for the truly lost in this world. Perhaps the ones that, secretly or not so secretly, I wish would stay lost. It means that I should open my own heart a bit more to the hope of those same people coming to Christ and keeping them in my prayers. And, as in the case of this episode, perhaps it means I should be mindful for what opportunities I can find in which I can show the love of Christ to those who seem to deserve it the least.
After all, that’s exactly how I hope Christ deals with me every day of my life.
Suggested Prayer: “Lord God, thank you that you have always heeded my prayer and granted me forgiveness in spite of my own mistakes, no matter how terrible, whenever I have come to you with sincere repentance asking for forgiveness. Thank you also that you are the God of the just and the unjust. Please help me to remember your boundless love is not limited to me at my worst but to everyone at their worst and, as Lord Jesus has said, you give the sun and rain in due season to both the good and the bad. As you are generous and merciful to all regardless of merit, grant that I may be likewise. Gratefully in Jesus’ Name, Amen.”