Radical Redemption: Star Wars & the Bible

“Once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny. Consume you, it will.”

These are the words Yoda uses to teach Luke Skywalker in The Empire Strikes Back, imploring his young learner to resist the dark side of the force and remain in the light. It’s an important lesson… but I think the sage Jedi might be missing the picture here.

Because if there’s any theme in the Star Wars, it’s redemption.

For just a few examples:

  • Han Solo is a smuggler and a crook but chooses to selflessly join the Rebel cause and becomes a hero.
  • Lando Calrissian betrays Han but later helps rescue him, joins the Rebel Alliance, and destroys the Death Star.
  • Kylo Ren spends nearly the entire sequel trilogy trying to snuff out the heroic Resistance, but he ultimately sacrifices himself to save Rey.

To put it mildly, the writers of Star Wars love a good redemption story. And fortunately, God does, too.

And of course, there’s no greater redemption story than Anakin Skywalker, who becomes the evil Darth Vader after turning to the dark side. Vader is known as one of the most terrifying, ruthless villains in movie history, but he eventually sacrifices himself to destroy the evil Emperor and save his son, Luke.

To put it mildly, the writers of Star Wars love a good redemption story. And fortunately, God does, too.

The Bible is stuffed with people who undergo inspiring redemption arcs:

  • Peter betrays Jesus in his greatest moment of need but returns and becomes one of the most important leaders of the young church.
  • Jonah initially refused God’s order to go to Nineveh, but his words ended up saving the lives of 120,000 people.
  • Matthew was a tax collector for the Romans who very well may have cheated his own people. But he gave up that life to follow Jesus as one of his 12 disciples and eventually gave his life for this faith.
  • Samson was a braggart who took all the credit for God’s victories for himself and was captured because of his hubris. But when he finally humbled himself and prayed to God, he was able to take down a building and crush more than 3,000 evil Philistines.

And, most famously, there’s Saul/Paul, the fervent Jewish leader who strove to squash the early church by persecuting anyone who worshipped Jesus… until he encountered his Savior and turned his life around, becoming one of the most influential Christians (maybe even humans) of all time.

The bottom line is we’re all redemption stories. By our very nature, if we’re going to do anything good, we need to be redeemed. Romans 3:23 tells us that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”, and Ecclesiastes states “there is no one on earth who is righteous, no one who does what is right and never sins.”

And the reality of our sin is worse than getting stuck in the Death Star trash compactor. Just see Romans 6:23: “For the wages of sin is death…”

Pretty rough outlook for us, huh? Those verses make it seem like there’s no shot at redemption. As Yoda stated, once we go down the dark path and sin, that’s curtains for us. There’s no coming back.

The good news for us is that God loves messy people, and he takes great thrill crafting our redemption story.

But, wise as he was, that’s what Yoda got wrong!

See, we didn’t finish Romans 6:23. Let’s check out the second half: “but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

We may not have the ability to craft our own redemption arc, but Jesus did it for us. When he took our place on the cross and suffered the fate we earned, he took the weight of our redemption story on himself. Now all we must do is acknowledge his love and sacrifice, and we get to experience the sweet, sweet benefits of redemption!

The good news for us is that God loves messy people, and he takes great thrill crafting our redemption story.

Don’t believe me? Just open the Bible! It’s filled to the brim with messed up, broken people. There are liars and adulterers and murderers and thieves and doubters… and that’s just the good guys. Humans are a beautiful creation, but sin left us bruised and flawed, a pitiful shade of what God intended when he created us.

God created masterpieces. We let ourselves become Jabba the Hut. He should just toss us into the Sarlacc pit, where we’ll be slowly digested for 1,000 years.

But he doesn’t see us that way. Even in our disgusting sin, God sees the beautiful children he created.

We’re honestly not dissimilar from Obi-Wan Kenobi’s description of Darth Vader: “He’s more machine than man now. Twisted and evil.” But God doesn’t see our metal appendages or the bulky breathing apparatus. He takes off Darth’s dark, ominous mask and sees Anakin Skywalker, the pure chosen one.

The beauty of receiving God’s grace is you don’t have to make your own redemption story. It’s impossible for you to do it through your own effort. Fortunately, God’s already written it for you. All you have to do is decide whether you’ll say yes or no to him.

In fact, another Yoda quote might sum it up best:

“Do or do not. There is no try.”

Dan Hoppen