My Little Pony: Frenemies
First off, for the record, I'm not a Brony. I am, however, a dad who loves his daughters and likes spending time with them. My girls love My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, and my wife grew up watching the OG show. So when MLP first hit Netflix, I sat down with my kids to let them give it a shot and was really pleasantly surprised at how good of a show it is. It's actually quality entertainment, encouraging, witty, and with the perfect amount of musical numbers. I watched the first few seasons with them, but have long abandoned watching them all. However, I still walk in while they are viewing it and catch myself getting sucked into it. So here's some things I'd like to share.
How do we treat our enemies?
There are many great areas in which I saw good truth from the depth of friendship and finding your true identity. The thing that has always stuck with me is how they treat their enemies. Primarily, I was impressed with the fact that in many cases, they not only defeat their enemies, but redeem them. Much like in the world of Dragonball Z, the toughest villains can quickly become your best friends. The way the ponies engage their enemies is something I think we could all truly learn something from. In most forms of hero vs. villain entertainment, once you defeat the villain, it's over, but not here.
Seriously, think about it. Nightmare Moon, Trixie, Sunset Shimmer, Starlight Glimmer, and Discord were, at one time or another, legitimate threats to Ponyville and Equestria at large. Nightmare Moon wanted to plunge the land into complete darkness. Trixie repetitively attacked/annoyed Ponyville, even taking complete control over it. Sunset Shimmer stole Twilight's crown, enslaved the entire school, and planned to take over all of Equestria. Starlight Glimmer robbed an entire village of their cutie marks, and then ruptured the entire timeline to get back at the ponies (thanks Barry). Then of course, there is Discord, who is in himself the very essence of Chaos. I remember as I watched these episodes with my daughters that it was amazing how quickly they were to forgive, but not only to forgive, but to redeem.
I've been a Batman fan for life, and I find it funny that Batman is JUST NOW trying to redeem villains like Clayface. With the ponies, they put a lot of talk into friendship, and the way they treat their enemies shows how real it is. They don't automatically kill their enemies. They don't automatically lock them away. They don't automatically classify them as villains and never give them a second chance. I think this looks a lot more like a biblical way of handling those we are in opposition with than how the world and even the church does on occasion. The ponies show in great deal the power of "Friendship" and display it in ways that not only encourage themselves but redeem the wicked around them. As believers, we are called to operate in love. Love of God, love of our neighbors, and this love that God has displayed for us should be far more effective than the friendship of 6 ponies and a tiny dragon. Look at how scripture actually teaches us to treat our enemies:
“But to you who are willing to listen, I say, love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, offer the other cheek also. If someone demands your coat, offer your shirt also. Give to anyone who asks; and when things are taken away from you, don’t try to get them back. Do to others as you would like them to do to you. “If you love only those who love you, why should you get credit for that? Even sinners love those who love them! And if you do good only to those who do good to you, why should you get credit? Even sinners do that much! And if you lend money only to those who can repay you, why should you get credit? Even sinners will lend to other sinners for a full return.“Love your enemies! Do good to them. Lend to them without expecting to be repaid. Then your reward from heaven will be very great, and you will truly be acting as children of the Most High, for he is kind to those who are unthankful and wicked. You must be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate." (Luke 6:27-36)
"Don’t rejoice when your enemies fall; don’t be happy when they stumble." (Proverbs 24:17)
"On the contrary:“If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." (Romans 12:20-21)
If we truly treat our enemies as scripture teaches us, no one would ever know we have enemies. This convinces me that sometimes the most detrimental enemies Christians have are Christians that refuse to love who God commands.
We need Perspective
From the episodes I had watched with my kids, I had only seen Starlight Glimmer as a villain, so when I walked through the living room the other day and she and Twilight were friendly, I asked my daughters, "So did they turn another bad guy into a friend?" to which they unanimously confirmed my theory. But just like several of the pony friends were once enemies, at one point all of us were enemies to God. Check out these repeated themes in scripture.
"For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light." - Ephesians 5:8
"As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved." - Ephesians 2:1-5
"or if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!" - Romans 5:10
"Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior." - Colossians 1:22
You see it? We have all been the bad guy in the story. We have all been the enemy and the villain. God loved us though. God reached out to us. God forgave us. We need to see people we are in disagreement or at odds with more like the way the ponies viewed their enemies, or more importantly the way God viewed us when we were enemies. God sacrificed to bring his enemies into relationship with him.
We Need Patience
Things aren't always flawless in the world of our newfound pony frenemies though. They are still flawed, and their conversions aren’t always the smoothest processes. Princess Luna still struggled at times with who she was as Nightmare Moon and suffered lapses into her darkness. Tirek corrupted Discord and made Discord betray not only the ponies, but also himself. Sunset Shimmer struggled with acceptance, and Starlight Glimmer struggled to find her place and her future without a life of manipulation. We need to have an understanding that people will struggle with obedience, moving forward, and not returning to who they were before. We have to make sure that when we are striving to help them that we aren’t naive enough to think the process will always be smooth. If we are going to truly help our enemies become friends, it will be an ongoing process, but it will be worth it. Scripture frequently encourages us to help turn people back to the right direction.
"My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins." - James 5:19-20
"Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ." - Galatians 6:1-2
"And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone." - 1 Thessalonians 5:14
I encourage you, be as patient, forgiving, and loving to those who are struggling as Christ is patient to us. Let's be a people that turns our enemies into friends. Let's show God's love equal to or better than 6 fictional ponies, and a tiny dragon.