Well, after a two-year wait since Episode VII – The Force Awakens, it’s at last time for us to pick up the story of Finn, Rey, Poe Dameron, Kylo Ren and Luke Skywalker once again. First screenings of ‘Star Wars Episode VIII – The Last Jedi’ begin here in the UK today.
I’m going to see it in half an hour’s time. I won’t post any spoilers, nor will I even say whether I enjoyed it or not, since that too would be a spoiler.
If you go see it yourself, I sincerely hope you enjoy it!
“Fear is the path to the dark side.
Fear leads to anger.
Anger leads to hate.
Hate leads to suffering.”
You won’t find this in the Bible, so don’t even try to find it 😉 Instead, once again, the wisdom of Yoda, from the Star Wars saga, illustrates perfectly a life-giving principle in the Kingdom of God.
Let’s hear it from Yoda first of all, shall we:
Well now, I was sad to read, the other day, posts on Facebook from a bloke who was spouting all kinds of nasty poisonous religious stuff, in response to my friend sharing things he’d discovered about Jesus and His take on homosexuality. I came away from that with a heavy heart, because I felt sorry for the man who had said all those nasty things. It was clear to me, reading between the lines (something I normally find difficult due to having Asperger’s Syndrome, but in this case I think the Spirit was leading me in my feeling) that this guy had some serious anger issues against those who did not quite agree with his doctrinal position.
This chap kept ‘warning’ us that our thinking was ‘dangerous’, ‘idolatry’ and other such words. And, predictably, he issued threats that we were going to Hell (handbasket probably optional, although I must say he didn’t specify). To be honest, I don’t really think he knew what the words he’d used meant. But the entire thing was shot through with anger, hatred, and fear. He expressed hatred both for us and for what we believed in. It seemed that he was terrified that if he didn’t ‘point out our error’, that he too would suffer the ‘same fate’ as we would for our heretical beliefs. I don’t think that, even in my rabid Fundamentalist days, I ever thought like that, although I have to admit that I felt a lot of anger about the way that certain cults, especially the Jehovah’s Witnesses, had ‘twisted’ many, many Scriptures to make them look as if they ‘supported’ their doctrines. And so I know how it feels…
Living a life like that leads inevitably to suffering, because there are consequences to our actions. That’s what sin is and what it produces. Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, and hate leads to suffering because it burns us up inside. And instead of exercising our freedom and following Jesus, we once again get all tangled up in ‘sin’ – both ours and others’ when we take it upon ourselves to ‘correct’ others – just like it says in Hebrews 12:1.
So today, then, I would like to develop this idea that, indeed, “fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, and hate leads to suffering”. Fear has, as Yoda says, ‘Everything!’ to do with it.
You see, people in Religious circles insist on perpetuating fear-based theology, despite (and indeed ignoring) reassuring passages like 1 John 4:18, where the writer says this:
This is about as clear as the Bible ever gets. If you are afraid of God punishing you, then you will live in fear. But there is no fear in Love, not God’s Love at any rate. Those who have experienced God’s love do not live in fear, because the experience of that perfect Love drives out all fear of punishment. We know for a fact that God will never, ever punish us for anything. And so there is no need to fear God, either in terms of punishment or anything else. Once you have been made perfect in Love; once you have experienced His Love, nothing and nobody can take that away from you, and therefore you do not live your life in fear anymore. I can testify to this, in that the worst thing that could possibly happen to me has indeed happened (Job 3:25), and yet here I am rejoicing still. Because I know the Love of the Father, and fear no longer has a place in my life 😀
It is easy to see why people have a god that they fear. Quite aside from the misuse of ancient English language as used in the King James Version of the Bible, where the word ‘Fear’ is used in the context of ‘fearing God’ – where actually it refers to being in reverent awe of Him, not being scared of Him – the whole message of humankind in regards to our position before god has always been one where we should be afraid. Be really, really afraid.
And that despite the most common phrase in the Bible . “Do not be afraid!”
“So effectively the religious authorities of [Jesus’s] time had made a ‘graven image’. They had built themselves an image of God in their minds and in their writings, and they thought that God was like that image. This image of God they had made was of course, like all graven images, completely incorrect; even in the Old Testament, God describes Himself as a God of Love, which their graven image did not reflect. They had set up, in the place of the Loving Father, a man-made, stone-faced image of a ‘nasty god’ which bore no resemblance to the loving Creator of the Universe. Ask any person even nowadays what they think of God, and the chances are that they think of him as an angry old man up in Heaven just looking for people to get radgy with. This is the legacy of the graven image that these people worshipped – and, sadly, that many people still worship today.“
And tragically that’s the case for many Christians too. Many Christians are driven by a fear of ‘going to Hell fire’ if they put so much as a toe out of place. This fear is perpetuated by church leaders who fuel this fear in order to maintain control over their ‘flocks’*. And so, Christians like that Facebook contributor fear God because they believe – incorrectly – that He’s a pretty nasty piece of work. The Pharisees in Jesus’s day believed that, and look where it got them – condemned to live lives where they had to observe all the minutiae of an impossibly complex religious ruleset in order to make themselves ‘acceptable’ to God. Who wants to live like that?
It is well known that we become like that which we worship. And so, believing in a nasty killjoy god and worshipping it means that we become like it. We will be wary of having fun, and we will condemn others who have fun, in case such behaviour – or allowing such behaviour – leads us into ‘sin’. We will become harsh, judgemental and intolerant.
However, if we believe in – and therefore worship – a God of goodness, joy, love, healing, peace and wonder, as demonstrated by Jesus, we will become more like Jesus instead of more like the nasty god. And the fruits in our lives will reflect that – love, joy, peace and all the rest, and this too will manifest itself in the way we relate to others.
But this fear of God, and what they fear He will do to them if they ‘get it wrong’, is deeply rooted in so many Christians’ lives. It appears that this man on Facebook became angry that others – especially the ‘unrighteous’, but also other believers – had got it wrong and he couldn’t stop us getting it wrong, and he was angry at us because he felt that we would drag him down, along with the rest of society with him, given half a chance.
And for that, he hates us – although he would doubtless say that he was being ‘loving’ in pointing out our ‘sin’ and ‘heresy’, but believe you me, there was nothing loving in his speech. But hate is a form of unforgiveness, and the only solution to that is to forgive us for our perceived ‘sin’; to let it go, to not worry about correcting us but to leave that up to God to correct us should He so wish.
And finally hate leads to suffering because it burns us up inside. Because it’s unforgiveness, it will eat away at us from the inside out. And thus the Dark Side triumphs in that person’s life, in that, like in John 10:10, “The thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy”. He steals our assurance, kills our joy, and destroys our peace.
To illustrate how this works, I will return for a while to the Star Wars analogy. I present this as a parable; a fictional story with a meaning. Let’s take a look at the main protagonist of the ‘first’ six episodes, from The Phantom Menace through to Return of the Jedi: the young Anakin Skywalker, whom I have featured in my blog before.
A bit of background for those unfamiliar with the story.
I must warn you that this will be a ‘spoiler’ if you haven’t seen the ‘Star Wars’ series yet!
As a young slave boy, Anakin Skywalker was recognised as being powerful in the Force, the Star Wars universe’s equivalent of God. Rescued from a life of slavery, but sadly not being able to free his beloved mother as well, Anakin is taken to the planet Coruscant in order to be trained to be one of the Jedi; warrior-monks who use their powers in the Force to maintain peace and justice in the Galaxy. The movie clip at the beginning of this piece shows his interview before the Jedi Council, of which the wise Yoda is a member. Anakin falls in love with a young lady called Padmé Amidala; a liaison which is forbidden by Jedi laws, but Anakin secretly marries Padmé in defiance of those laws. The evil Senator Sheev Palpatine – who is a Sith Lord, a follower of the evil Dark Side of the Force – then uses Anakin’s fears to corrupt him and turn Anakin too to the Dark Side. Firstly, his fears for his mother – who dies in his arms after being abducted by the ‘Sandpeople’, all of whom Anakin then murders in revenge for his mother’s death. His fear led to anger, his anger led to hate, and his hate led to suffering. Secondly, Palpatine then uses Anakin’s fear for Padmé’s safety to twist him subtly towards the Dark Side; Anakin’s anger flares because he perceives that his mentor, Obi-Wan Kenobi, does not treat him fairly. And finally, that anger changes to Hate. Anakin Skywalker turns to the Dark Side of the Force and becomes Darth Vader, his new Sith name. And his hatred for Obi-Wan spills over into his relationship with Padmé, and he chokes her almost to death. The very last thing Anakin/Vader says to Obi-Wan, before being left for dead – are the words, “I hate you!” (Be warned, this is quite graphic)
And Vader has to live with the destruction caused by that hatred – the suffering which Yoda mentioned and which, tragically, he was so correct about. “I sense great fear in you”, said Yoda, and he was right. Padmé dies of a broken heart (after giving birth to Padmé and Anakin’s twins, Luke and Leia) and Vader blames himself because Palpatine lies that Vader killed her. His anguish, in this penultimate scene of the film, is so terrible that the Dark Side of the Force overwhelms him and causes massive destruction in the room around him. As you can see from Palpatine’s face, this is all pleasing to him as Vader succumbs more and more to the horror and despair of the Dark Side of the Force.
And then the rest of the Star Wars saga is about the results of Darth Vader’s anger, fear, hatred and bitterness as they fester inside him and destroy all that is dear to him, especially the Galactic Republic that he fought for for so long; instead, it becomes the Galactic Empire and Palpatine names himself Emperor. This next picture illustrates beautifully the regret, grief and destruction that Vader contains within himself (the lady whose face is in the picture is Padmé):
For Anakin, then, his fear leads to anger; his anger leads to hate; and his hate leads to suffering – not only the loss of his beloved wife, but also the unnumbered sufferings of those whose lives Vader destroys, and that deadly, destructive regret and self-blame that feeds the Dark Side of the Force within him. He’s full of anger, hate and suffering; anger at himself, at Palpatine, and at everyone else who he feels has betrayed him. Until eventually his love for his son, Luke, compels him to save Luke from being murdered by Emperor Palpatine – albeit at the cost of his own life – but in the process, Vader comes back to the Light and dies in Luke’s arms, but as the redeemed Jedi Anakin Skywalker once more. He has let go of his hate at last.
Now to return from that parable into real life. Quite a jump, isn’t it? Star Wars is simply brilliant….anyway, the Vader example is hopefully a slightly extreme comparison for our contributor in the Facebook story, but still it illustrates the point. Existing with a fear of God, in the sense of being scared of Him, is not a healthy place to be in at all. I don’t know why people hold so hard onto the fear aspect when all along there’s the Loving arms of God underneath (Deut 33:27), although as I said above, fear is its own vicious cycle. But it’s easy to see the chain reaction of fear-anger-hate-suffering that some of these people have, and, I hope, that they long to break free of. They don’t need to be scared of God, they don’t need to be angry with others who don’t agree with them, and they certainly don’t need to hate us. Because the only outcome is suffering. These people will never be free to enjoy the freedom of the Kingdom of God unless they first break free from this fear-induced cycle.
But that takes God’s Love. It takes a realisation, and indeed a divine revelation, of God’s Love for us. You can’t make it up. You can’t even make it happen. It’s got to be from Him Himself. But, you can ask Him for it. Ask God to reveal His Love to you. Ask Him to show you the perfect Love that drives out all fear! You see, fortunately for us, God’s Grace reaches us even in our hopelesness, darkness, blindness and despair, in our suffering, in our anger, hate and fear and regret.
And He heals us.
Fear is indeed the path to the Dark Side. It leads to anguish and suffering. But we do not need to follow that path. Don’t persecute those who believe things differently from you. Let go of your anger, your fear, your hatred and let God heal you.
Let me tell you, the relief, the sense of a huge weight lifting off you, is immense. This is my testimony:
My chains fell off, my heart was free
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee!
*There may be some reading this who would love to break free of that fear, but paradoxically they are afraid of what might happen – what God might do to them – if they are wrong. Well, I feel for you people, I really do. And I testify that there is indeed freedom out here, free of the chains of fear-based religion. And it’s a safe freedom!
I would say to you, along with many other voices in the Bible: Do not be afraid!
Here’s a great post from Mo, one of my Facebook friends:
“Jesus and the teachers of the law both quoted a lot of scripture.
“The stunning difference was in the lens through which they saw it, the lens that defined its purpose and set its context.
“The Pharisees used the scriptures to condemn, to accuse, to prove guilt. Present-day people are pros at this pastime and propose plenty of proof-text piles to penalize perpetrators.
“I’ve done this too often, sad to say.
“Jesus came to show that the entire scriptures pointed to Him (Luke 24:27), the One who came to bring healing, forgiveness, wholeness, restoration, peace and Life.
“The Pharisees “weaponized” the scriptures, while Jesus came to disarm them and bring to us an entirely new way of engaging with the world. . .
“A way informed by His Love, built on the foundation of His Shalom.
I have written on this subject before. Some people see the Bible as the Word of God, and that the ‘Word of God’ is not only the ‘Sword of the Spirit’ (Eph 6:17), but also ‘…quick and powerful, cutting [really deeply]’ (Heb 4:12). I personally have likened the idea of the ‘Sword of the Spirit’ as being the ‘Lightsaber of the Spirit‘, albeit jokingly.
But I am concerned when Christians conduct what I would call ‘friendly fire’ attacks on fellow believers by wielding the Bible as a club, sword or other weapon. As I quoted in the first of the articles in the paragraph above,
“Every time [Scripture] is used, it should be used in a way that matches the heart of God. If it is not, it is being abused.”
How true that is. The great Christian theologian and apologist, C. S. Lewis, also agreed:
A-flippin’-men to that. Yes, it is Jesus Who is the Word of God (Jn1:1), not the Bible, although it does contain some of thewords of God – some of the things He said. And the Bible is, as Lewis says, is one of the devices God can use to bring us to Christ. It is so sad, then, that in these days, people use the Bible as a judgemental weapon to beat up both those in the Church, and those outside it. Is it any wonder that I get so frustrated seeing, time and again, ‘believers’ hurting others with this powerful book – albeit a book that only has real power when people agree that it has. In other words, for those that do not believe in things written in the Bible, it holds no power.
Conversely, though, the Bible holds the power both to build up or to destroy those who do believe in what the Bible says. This is why the message of inerrancy – that the Bible is always right – is so damaging, because firstly the Bible was never intended to be always right; secondly, those who have dogmatically decided that what they believe is right are the ones who batter people over the head with their own beliefs, based on their own interpretation. That there are many ways of interpreting the Bible is beyond doubt; that is why there are tens of thousands of Chistian denominations all across this world of ours.
The damage caused by this sort of behaviour is at least twofold. Here are the two principal types of damage I can think of: firstly, those who believe the Bible is an authoritative document are led into lives of slavery and misery by those who claim to have everything all ‘right’; all their doctrines lined up neatly like ducks in a row. Secondly, people outside the Church see all this theological infighting and decide, quite rightly, that they want nothing whatever to do with this sort of thing. In a very real way, the ‘gatekeepers of Heaven‘ are shutting the doors of Heaven in men’s faces by their misuse of this book which is such a precious spiritual resource but which is misused so often, as in the Lewis quotation above.
Instead, then, let’s use the Bible as the way to build people up. Let’s use it for its primary purpose, which is to lead people to the true Word of God, Who is Jesus Christ – not in an accusatory or condemnatory way, but in portraying God as Jesus portrayed Him: full of mercy, compassion and Love. When we lift Jesus up, He draws all men to Himself (Jn 12:32).
This is so much more upbuilding than causing vast spiritual and emotional damage akin to waving a razor-sharp sword around.
So, to my mind, it’s about time people stopped waving this lightsaber around like that.
They’ll have someone’s arm off….* 😉
*This is a reference to how, in most of the Star Wars movies, someone’s arm gets lopped off by a lightsaber. I have heard it jokingly said that it’s not a proper Star Wars movie unless someone loses an arm… 😉
Yes, this is a deliberate posting of a (very loosely) Star Wars – flavoured post on the day that the new Star Wars movie, ‘Rogue One’, is released!
I sometimes wonder if the ‘family resemblance’ of certain people who identify as Christians is more towards the Dark Side than the Light.
Throughout this post, please bear in mind that, as always, I am not referring to the average Jesus-loving churchgoer, but to those who consider it their duty to poke into others’ lives with their judgementalism and such like.
You see, Jesus said in Matthew 5:44-45, “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven“. I’ve written about that here. Someone who does these things is showing the ‘family resemblance’ of Father God’s Kingdom, and that was what Jesus was talking about.
This week, though, I have been looking at the FB pages of several people whom I have seen on there and on forums whom I would term ‘nasty Christians’. Not that they are bad people as such; I used to be like that once upon a time and I know what it’s like to be dogmatic, unbending and rigid in my beliefs; held to an artificial set of behavioural Rules made up by humans (Mk 7:6-7). I’m not saying they are literally nasty people, but that they do come across as harsh and judgemental, making the Gospel unattractive with their judgementalism and sin-policing. They make faith in God just as unattractive as did the Pharisees of Jesus’s day, and they ‘shut the doors of Heaven in men’s faces’ (Mt 23:13)
Now, in a kind of antithesis to how Jesus said ‘you will be called the sons of my Father in heaven’ to His disciples because they reflected His Father’s character, He also chided the Pharisees of His day when He said, “You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies“. (Jn 8:44 (NASB))
The devil is the ‘father of lies’; he’s also known as the ‘Accuser’ (Rev 12:10); the ‘Adversary’ (1Pet5:8 (ESV)) and the ‘thief’ (Jn 10:10).
The thing is that if you look at the actions of these so-called (and I use that phrase in its true sense) ‘nasty Christians’ who do ‘sin police’ with their victims, being their Accuser, being their Adversary, threatening them with Hell, feeding them with a false gospel (i.e. lies) – then let me ask you: whose fatherhood do they most reflect? I would say they reflect the characteristics of the enemy, the devil, more than they do those of Jesus’s Father God. These people condemn other people, and accuse them of sins. Who does that sound like to you? Clue: the last time I looked, accusation is the job of the enemy!
Now, compare that to the way in which real Christ-followers simply love others. “By this will all men know that you are My disciples – that you love each other” (Jn 13:35). Not just your little inner circle of family or people that agree with you (although of course it is them too), but everyone. The fruit of the Spirit called ‘Love’ applies to everyone. Otherwise, “If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?” (Mt 5:46) No, Jesus meant to love everyone – just like He did – which means to lay down one’s life in service to others. This is what happens when Jesus is allowed to live His life through the believer by the power of His Spirit. It just comes naturally; if you have to force it, you’re not doing it right! And that’s how people will know that you are His disciples, not by being a ‘nasty’ Pharisee!
For those gentle believers battered by the actions of Pharisees, then, I would say this. Jesus said that “The thief comes not but to steal, kill and destroy” (Jn 10:10). The Pharisees are like ‘their father’ in that they steal your assurance (or at least they try to, by challenging your ‘salvation status’), they kill your joy (because Pharisees are killjoys by nature!), and they destroy your peace (with their accusations). Encountered someone like that recently, either online or in real life? Then you can be sure that because their fruits are bad – and they are indeed bad fruits! – you do not need to agree with anything that they say/write to you. You don’t need to be afraid of these people, because Jesus said in Matthew 6:20, “Store your treasures in heaven, where … thieves do not break in and steal” – and that (the thieves) includes them! The Kingdom of God takes all sorts, yes, but those people, who are narrow-minded enough to believe naively that they have ‘got it all right’ to the exclusion of others, don’t get to have any say in your eternal destiny! They are not the gatekeepers. It doesn’t matter what they say; the fact remains that they have no say in your, or anyone else’s, salvation! Always remember that the treasure you have is untouchable by those who would seek to deny you it. It really is in that place where ‘thieves cannot break in and steal’. Your place at the table is reserved, and no amount of men’s proclamations can ever take you off the guest list.
But I also have to point out that even for Pharisees, this ‘father issue’ can have a happy ending!
You see, Jesus didn’t mean that the Pharisees were literally children of the enemy. He was meaning that they reflect more the character of the enemy than they do the character of Father God, as I explained above. But, you know what? Jesus, for all His diatribes against them, actually loved the Pharisees. In His way, He was dealing with them in a similar manner to how they dealt with others; imposing their Laws on them and reminding them of how important it was to fulfil the entire Law (Mt 5:19). I believe He did this in order to use the Law for its original intention – to show the futility of human effort in trying to please God by obeying Rules, as is put another way in the quote below:
In fact, for some of them, there actually is an historical record of that happy ending! There’s a fairly obscure little passage in Acts 15:5 that says that some of the believers were in fact Pharisees, which means that they did come to believe in Jesus at some point. And even in the passage I mentioned above, they were still pushing their legalism agendas! It just goes to show that it really takes all sorts in the Church, and that the learning of the ways of Grace can take time; as far as I know, that passage in Acts is set in about 50AD (nearly 20 years after Jesus’s ascension), so those Pharisees had probably either never/not yet learned, or slipped back into their legalistic ways (it’s easy to do; this is the natural human inclination!). But whatever the case, they were ‘believers’.
And so, this tells me that there is still hope for Pharisees, even those of today. (In fact there must be; I was myself one, once upon a time, before Jesus set me free!) Although they may well find it hard to slip their legalistic mindset, they are still partaking of the Kingdom, albeit probably in a limited way as they don’t appreciate the full freedom they have!
In fact, I wrote a piece nearly a year ago which gives you a simple ‘acid test’ to determine whether your fruits are ‘good’ or ‘bad’. Whether they are ‘Pharisee’ or ‘Grace-based’. Click here to go to that piece – you might find it helpful!
So, if you have felt your spirit touched by this blog post; if the Spirit has been prodding you about whether you are behaving, speaking and forum posting nastily – more like the enemy than like Father God – be encouraged too. You can be free of all that need to correct others! You can be free to be the person you were meant to be; a child of your Father and not ‘of the enemy’! Maybe check out this blog post for more ideas – and walk out into your freedom. Freedom you were born for. Freedom that reflects your true Father!
If there’s anyone reading this blog who does not know the significance of the featured (header) image for this blog post, do not continue reading.
If you do know the significance, then of course you’ll know that the picture shows the scene from Star Wars Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back where Darth Vader tells ‘Luke Skywalker that Vader is in fact Luke’s father. The classic line ‘No! I am your father!’ – the ‘Big Reveal’ – is of course one of the most iconic moments in the entire Star Wars saga.
After some of my more serious posts recently, I felt I just had to inject a bit of light relief into my blog posts.
The Bible says to “…take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:17). Now, whether that refers to Jesus, the Incarnate Word of God, or the Bible (possibly not, as it didn’t exist when Ephesians was written! And I don’t do bibliolatry*) but in any case, having the Scripture memorised is indeed a powerful weapon in spiritual warfare; the enemy doesn’t like to hear an appropriate Scripture quoted at him!** So let’s call the Bible the word of God for now. And it’s the Sword of the Spirit. I like to think of it as my spiritual lightsaber***.
Now, as you may know, I am a huge Star Wars geek. Not just a fan, but a total geek. And in Star Wars lore, there is a lightsaber combat style known as Jar’Kai, which is the method of using two lightsabers together in combat.
Well-known (to Star Wars geeks anyway) practitioners of Jar’Kai are Jedi Padawan Ahsoka Tano, who wields two lightsabers of different lengths, and (usually) one of them in a forehand grip, one in a backhand grip:
…and there’s also Sith apprentice/Nightsister Asajj Ventress:
Here’s Ventress using her two lightsabers while fighting against the Jedi Knight, Anakin Skywalker:
Now, here’s the funny bit. At home, and also when I go to my church’s life group (our housegroup), I take two Bibles. In effect, I’m carrying two swords. Or, as I’d prefer to think, my twin lightsabers! Here’s the Star Wars equivalent: effectively,I use my Bibles Jar’Kai style. I take my 1978 NIV and my King James Version. I find that sometimes, one version puts a passage in a better, more easily understandable light. An example of the King James carrying a better turn of phrase is in Matthew 18:3 (KJV), as explained in this article. And the other side of the coin is that the Bible I use most is the 1978 NIV, and quite often I use that translation to obtain the modern English meanings of the KJV archaic speech. I find the result to be most illuminating! Each translation has its own strengths and weaknesses. Each Bible covers points the other misses.
Similarly, the Jar’Kai lightsaber style allows the user to cover his/her weakpoints with one saber while attacking with the other, or to get better use out of each saber. Think like the effect of having two lightsabers is greater than the sum of the two sabers.
And, for me, so it is with my Bibles. Some have called me things like ‘Two-Gun Tex’. I’d prefer the Jar’Kai label but nobody knows about it except us geeks 😉 Here’s Anakin Skywalker again (played by Haydn Christensen) improvising Jar’Kai against Sith Lord Count Dooku/Darth Tyranus (played by the late legendary actor Christopher Lee) in Star Wars Episode II – Attack of the Clones:
There are more parallels, too. Use of the lightsaber relies very heavily on the Force, which is the Star Wars universe’s equivalent of God. Similarly, the Bible has to be used as inspired by the Holy Spirit. If the Spirit brings to life a passage of Scripture, then that is the point at which the Bible becomes the Word of God – living and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword (Heb 4:12). Although as I have said above, Jesus is the Word of God, the Bible when activated by the Spirit is still a powerful weapon. And we don’t need to be ultra-precise about these things anyway; this is supposed to be a light-hearted piece.
And carrying four Bibles would mean you’d have a really heavy bag.
Anyway, yes, it might sound pretentious and maybe even super-spiritual to carry two Bibles to housegroup – but I really do find it useful and educational to do so.
And I know all this sounds completely nuts. But I find it funny, and maybe that’s just a quirky Aspergic sort of thing. But I thought I’d share it because it might get a few chuckles….something we could all do with now and again!
*Bibliolatry is where people are almost thinking of the Bible as God, and anything said against the Bible is seen as blasphemy. No, really. But of course those guilty of bibliolatry can’t see that they are doing it. Now that’s worth a chuckle or two, or would be if it didn’t cause so much misery!
**Please don’t be under the impression that I take my Bibles to housegroup in order to start Scripture-bombing fights with people. I don’t 😀
***If you don’t know what a lightsaber is, be advised that it’s a famous weapon from the Star Wars movie franchise. It’s like a laser beam formed into a sword and it can be used for both attack and defence. And it’s deadly in the right hands; deadly in a different way in the wrong hands (you’d end up chopping off bits of yourself and your friends 😉 ). Another parallel about the use/misuse of Scripture!
****In Star Wars Episode III – Revenge of the Sith
Here’s another superb piece of John Williams music from Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens. This piece is called ‘The March of the Resistance’ and I love it. In fact, I love it so much that I have it as the ringtone on my mobile phone. The problem, of course, with having such a good ringtone, is that I never want to answer the phone; I’d rather listen to the music 😉
Williams makes full use of the orchestra in this piece, in terms of instrumentation. It is absolutely full of gorgeous counterpoints, it has a great chord structure, dynamics and lovely attack and emphasis. Some of it is even reminiscent of the piece ‘Battle in the Air’ from the film ‘Battle of Britain’, composed by Sir William Walton, which is a classic piece of movie music. John Williams is one of the greatest creative geniuses of our time.
This is hopelessly true. At least, it is in my case. I always open automatic doors using the Force. Try it and see if you can get it to work too!
For those who don’t know, in the Star Wars movies, some characters can ‘use the Force’ to move objects around without touching them – kind of like ‘telekinesis – and this ability can also be used to open doors without touching the handle. I couldn’t find a proper Star Wars YouTube clip to illustrate this, but this is what it would look like:
Most of my readers know how much I love to use the mythology of Star Wars to illustrate theological points from the Christian faith. And of course there is no better character than Jedi Master Yoda when it comes to wisdom quotes. With his backwards-facing speech and small stature, it’s easy to underestimate him – until you realise that he’s over 800 years old and has lived under the guidance of the Force (the Star Wars universe’s version of God) for his whole life. He’s compassionate and gentle, wise and powerful. Someone once said to me that he thought that Yoda was ‘…a better Christian than some Church people I know’!
Although sometimes his sayings can be most confusing!
Take, for instance, the saying in the title of this piece.
“Try not. Do, or do not. There is no ‘try’ “
This is actually a fair summary of the message of God’s Grace, in a nutshell.
But first, let’s hear it from Master Yoda himself:
And I’m not the only one who found it confusing. For instance, in the Disney XD series ‘Star Wars Rebels‘, there’s an exchange between Jedi Kanan Jarrus and his young Padawan (apprentice), Ezra Bridger, talking about it:
As I said above, this is indeed a fair summary of the message of God’s Grace, in terms of what we need to do to please God. Naturally, I’m ripping it entirely out of its original context, and saying something completely different from what Yoda meant (I think, anyway!) – but still it’s useful.
“Do, or Do Not, there is no Try”, simply reminds us that in Christ we have the freedom to Do, or to Do Not. There is absolutely no need to Try.
This is so liberating!
You see, as my regular readers will know, I am a strong proponent of Grace. God’s Grace: the undeserved favour of Almighty God given freely and without hindrance or condition to His children. In all the world’s religions, there are really only two main approaches: there’s Legalism, and there’s Grace. And Christianity, at its core, is the only faith which promotes Grace, and this entirely through the finished work of Jesus Christ – although sadly, much of the time, it is bound up with so much other legalistic religious baggage that it’s undetectable in its true form.
Simply put, Legalism is: do this, do this, don’t do that, don’t do that. Try harder to impress God and He’ll look upon you with favour.
Grace, however, is: it’s already done! Because of the freedom Grace brings, Grace is “Do, or do not. There is no ‘try’. “
Grace gives you the freedom to choose to do, or do not, without the Law telling you what to do or not to do. Grace allows you to live life by the Spirit of God, life ‘in the Spirit’, completely unfettered by human expectations of how you ‘should’ obey God’s Law. In short, Do, or Do Not. If you begin to ‘Try’, then you immediately fall into Law and you have ‘fallen from Grace’ (Gal 5:4) in that you are no longer in the state where you are relying on Grace to do things for you, such as making you righteous, fulfilling the Law in Christ and so on. You cannot be in Grace and Law at the same time; it’s either one or the other. To coin a Star Wars phrase, again, you need to ‘trust in the Force’, to ‘let go’ and let God work out His will for you as you walk in the Spirit.
“Do, or do not. There is no ‘try’ “
Because the flesh and the law work together, there is no try, because try is doomed to failure. The Law is weakened by sin, and sin increases through the Law (Rom 7:5-6). The two therefore work together in a vicious circle to produce fruitlessness and death. If you want to live by Law, fine; you will still enjoy fellowship with God after a fashion, even though you will likely be adding in lots of additional burdens like rule-keeping, expected behaviour and having to toe the party line on certain issues like creation/evolution and gay/straight debates. There is a form of fellowship with God there, because God allows people to ‘do legalism’ without it affecting how He sees them. But it’s not because of the Rules you think you’re keeping so well (in fact you will probably be conscious of how badly you’re keeping them!); no, It’s because of God’s Grace, apart from Law, that you are already made acceptable to God in Christ. But unless you come into the real freedom of the Children of God (Rom 8:21) then you will never be free, completely free, from the desire to please others, from the jumping through man-made hoops in order to please God, and all that other baggage. Make no mistake – the desire to please God through following rules almost always turns into trying to please men, because in actual fact it’s their rules you end up trying to keep, not God’s. The Pharisees of Jesus’s day had the Ten Commandments and some other laws too, but they also added lots of other man-made rules of their own. You see the problem? This still goes on today…..
Grace is over Law – the Law of God which essentially states that everyone has to be perfect, and therefore naturally leads us to the point where we realise we can’t be perfect. And so it leads us to Grace, because the function of the Law is to show us our need for Grace (Rom 7:13). The key here is to realise that and accept it, rather than to go on struggling under Law!
“Do, or do not. There is no ‘try’ “
Paul, talking about God’s dealing with Israel with regards to the Gospel, (but the principle applies to Jew and Gentile believer alike), says in Romans 11:6, “And if by grace, then it cannot be based on works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace” (NIV) The King James Version actually adds in more, which I find helpful: “And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work” Romans 11:6 (KJV). That elaboration in the KJV is helpful because it explains that whichever mode of belief you subscribe to – Law (works) or Grace – they are mutually exclusive. You cant exist in both states at the same time. To try to do so means you become ‘double-minded‘ because you are in and out of the ‘state of Grace’ and blown about all over the place (Jas 1:5-8)
“Do, or do not. There is no ‘try’ “
I still maintain that, for many believers (even those who understand Grace), the temptation to become acceptable to God through performance – ‘works’ – is a vestigial remnant of their desire to please God in their own strength. But what of where James says in Jas 2:14-26 that “faith without works is dead”? Don’t we need both faith and works? Yes, but only in that works are the fruit of faith. A life lived in faith will produce good works; as usual in many Christian circles a lot of people have got it back-to front and said that good works prove your faith. In one sense they do, but it is not the job of fellow believers to be ‘fruit inspectors’ who ‘police’ others’ works! And the interesting thing here is that actually even those whose walk is under Law still do produce some fruit, because their hearts are in one sense right before God in that they desire Him and desire to walk with Him. But the primary holdup with Law is that the Law-walking believer is never walking in the complete freedom that is his by birthright.
Why have I gone to such lengths to describe the futility of the walk under Law in this piece?
Because these are all examples of Try. It’s all about what we do, rather than about what Christ has already done. What part of Christ’s work does the Legalistic believer think was not completed properly, such that he needs to complete Christ’s work for Him? No, this is Try. Even for those who claim to recognise Grace, but then try to prove they love God by trying to obey rules, it’s not really living under Grace; it’s living under ‘mixture‘. True Grace is completely different. There is no compulsion to try to fulfil the Law in order to please God, because Jesus has already fulfilled the Law on our behalf. There is the freedom to Do – works for God flowing from the depth of our love, and relationship with, Him – but not in order to try to earn His favour, which we already have. The freedom to enjoy life with all its blessings without human rules and expectations getting in the way. There is the freedom to Do Not; the freedom to just rest in God and trust Him for all our own righteousness rather than try to earn it for ourselves – which we can’t do anyway!
Despite all my convoluted explanations above, it’s really very simple.
Under Grace, you have the freedom to Do; you have the freedom to Do Not.
But to Try – I think we’ve already seen how futile this is.
I love how Christians can learn so much from Star Wars mythology. In the trailer for the new movie, The Force Awakens, there is the following exchange:
Rey: “Those stories about what happened….”
Han Solo: “It’s true. All of it. The Dark Side; the Jedi. It’s all true”
What was it that turned the cynical, hard-bitten smuggler, Han Solo, who originally said that in all his travels, he’d never seen anything like this ‘all-powerful, invisible Force, controlling everything’, into a man who came to believe in all the ‘mumbo-jumbo’ of that same mythical ‘Force’? Well, the thing was, he’d seen it in action, used by his friend Luke Skywalker. There was no longer any doubt in his mind.
And so, thirty years after the events in ‘Return of the Jedi’, Han Solo can tell these two young adventurers, Rey and Finn, about the Force – the “… energy field created by all living things; it surrounds us, penetrates us, it binds the galaxy together” – with some authority, even though they’ve never really heard anything about it. He can tell them it’s true, because he knows it is.
And for Christians, this of course reflects on the reality of Jesus.
Sometimes because of our circumstances, sometimes because of the pressures of life, we become cynical; we become discouraged. We wonder if God really does have His Hand on us. And so it’s time to look back at the things God has done for us in the past – at the times when His Hand was certainly on us; at the times when we’ve seen Him in action. At the times when He provided just what we needed, at just exactly the right time. Or maybe we should listen to the testimonies of our Christian brothers and sisters who have also found God’s provision to be just what they needed, when they needed it.
Then, when we look at the promises of God, we can also expect them to be true for us in our lives. And even the vast apocalyptic prophecies, like at the end of Revelation and in parts of Daniel (e.g. late in Chapter 7), where it speaks of a heavenly city, and the people of God shining like the stars of heaven – It’s true. All of it. These things, one day, will happen, and will become historical fact. And – and I find this the most exciting thought of all – we will be there! And we will see it, and take part in it. Now isn’t that something mind-blowing?
Because we can say, along with Han Solo, “It’s true. All of it.”
The header photo is of the legendary actor Harrison Ford, reprising his role as ‘Han Solo’ in the new Star Wars movie, “Star Wars Episode VII – The Force Awakens”
The full speech is found in this Episode VII third trailer, at time point 1:08 and then at 1:29 in the YouTube clip below: