As I took my seat on the plane to Chicago O’Hare on Wednesday I introduced myself to the elderly couple sitting next to me and they told me their name was ‘Yoda’. I thought about cracking some kind of Star Wars/Jedi joke but changed my mind as they must have heard them all before. They were wonderful people and we chatted for much of the 8 hour journey. I also discovered that their name was actually spelt ‘Ioder’!
Chatting to the Ioder’s took me back to the year 1977. I was 8 years old and my family were taking me to the movies to see the film everyone was talking about – Star Wars. I came out of the Gaumont Cinema in Doncaster totally enthused, inspired and exhilarated. I had never experienced anything like it, and from that day I have loved every film in the Star Wars saga.
As George Lucas produced the subsequent 5 movies over the next 28 years, so many of my generation and the next have loved these stories. We’ve got to know the characters, imagined and re-imagined the idea of space travel and of other life forms from different planets. In particular we have identified with the battle of good versus evil – of ‘The Force’ led by a kind of priestly people called Jedi, versus ‘The Dark Side of the Force’ led by the Sith. The popularity of Star Wars is perhaps best summed up in the fact that 0.8% of the UK population chose (seriously or otherwise) to mark their religion as ‘Jedi’ on the 2001 Census!
Good stories are powerful. And the Star Wars ‘big story’ is a great story that’s been so influential that I suspect it’s shaped us more than we realise. In particular I think it’s shaped the western church and our understanding of good and evil – of light and darkness. You see, in the Star Wars movies, you never know who is going to win. As the light sabres clash in the battle between The Force and the Dark Side it is as if equal and opposite powers are battling it out. Rather like the Yin and Yang of eastern religious thought, we are told that there is a need to achieve balance in The Force. And as the Jedi bless each other with the words ‘May the Force be with you’ Christians hear echoes of the beginning of the Eucharistic Prayer (‘The Lord be with you’) and identify with the Jedi. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting that Star Wars is intentionally deceptive or evil – it’s just a story! But I am saying that as followers of Jesus have watched the movies and identified with the Jedi, so we’ve subconsciously bought into the idea that the real battle between light and darkness is like this – a battle of equal and opposite forces.
But this is not what Christians believe or what the bible teaches. The Scriptures teach that Jesus, the Light of the world (John 9:5) has authority and power and dominion that is unsurpassed. The devil (who personifies evil) was decisively defeated at the Cross (Hebrews 2:14) and knows that he cannot win. At best he is a fallen angel and perhaps equal in authority and power to the angels Gabriel or Michael. And as we follow Jesus, so he gives us the light of his presence to shine in the world (Matthew 5:14) – and we can do that with a humble confidence, because we know that the light in us in so much stronger than any darkness we encounter (1 John 2:8).
I was reminded of this yesterday as I read Banning Liebscher’s book Jesus Culture. Liebscher starkly and helpfully writes:
‘There is no competition between light and darkness. Many people live with the assumption that there is some cosmic battle between light and darkness warring over their city, and it’s always undecided as to who will win. Most of the time we aren’t sure who is prevailing, or we believe darkness is overcoming. Whilst there IS a battle raging, it is not actually between light and darkness. Why? Because, in the words of Bill Johnson, “Light is always superior to darkness and darkness is always inferior to light.” …
If I turn on the light, the darkness leaves. Darkness doesn’t have an option… Darkness doesn’t have a choice, because the minute light comes into the room the shadows have to flee…
It doesn’t matter what shade of darkness is in your city. That darkness will always remain inferior to even the smallest amount of light. Somehow we have bought into the lie that the enemy’s darkness is stronger that our light or that sin is more powerful than grace. By being impressed with darkness we’ve come up with excuses for why our cities are not in revival.’
I found those words so helpful. They remind us that our mandate from Jesus is to shine his light wherever we are. So don’t hide it or cloak it today. Where-ever you go – at work, home, school, uni, even at the shops – shine the powerful light of Jesus Christ and you will dispel the darkness.
Oh… and as you do so, may ‘The Lord’ be with you.