It’s been thirty-seven years since it first came out but I remember it as though it were yesterday. For the moment the movie began, like a tractor beam pulling in the Millenium Falcon, I was drawn into the imagery, the ideas, the heroes and villains, the soaring music, even the cheesy title slides of George Lucas’ space-opera trilogy, Star Wars. What’s more, so was almost everybody else I knew. Because something within that story hit a nerve for a lot of people and it still does. Indeed, not only was the film franchise able to span decades, but there’s a new set of Star Wars movies being produced right now for release next year, and I have no doubt but that they will set box office records as well, adding to the haul of some 4.3 billion dollars made so far and counting.
Now I mention all of this because today, just in case you don’t know it, is Star Wars Day within the popular culture. Why? Because it’s the fourth of May, of course. And as Star Wars fans are quick to say, “May the Fourth Be With You.” (You can tell a Methodist, by the way, because whenever we hear that recurring refrain from the movie, “May the Force be with you,” we intrinsically want to respond, “And also with you.”)
The reason why there is an appeal to this film series for me, at least, however, is that it speaks to the great battle that goes on inside of each of us between good and evil. St. Paul spoke to that long before George Lucas, of course, when he admitted to the Romans,
“I do not know what I am doing. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do… I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. So I find this law at work: when I want to do good, evil is right there with me.” (Romans 7.15-21)
And it’s true, isn’t it? But before we draw too close of a parallel between the struggle of St. Paul and the epic conflict of the cosmos in Star Wars, we ought to recognize that there is not just an impersonal force which is in charge of the universe, but there is an intensely personal Father.
Indeed, that’s one of the absolutely mind-boggling truth-claims of the Christian faith—that the God who made all things, the stars and all the planets in all the constellations in all of the galaxies, even those long ago and far far away, that same expressive power is not just a functional deity, or even a mystical life-force or energy field, but He is a Creator who is not only able to relate to every single one of His creatures, but who desires to do so. It’s not the Force whom we need with us in life, thus—it’s the Father. For even ultimate energy has no real appeal to us unless there is both an intelligence and the possibility of a meaningful interaction with it somehow.
Likewise, there IS a battle between good and evil going on in this world, maybe even going on inside of each of us, but it is not a struggle between the dark side and light side of a single eternal force, for the truth is, God HAS no dark side. 1 John 1.5 tells us that “God is light; in Him there is no darkness at all.” And plainly put, what that means is that God has no divided personality; there is no bifurcation in the divine will, no divided loyalties, no struggle between good and evil there, for God is the very definition of perfect goodness itself.
Other traditions have seen it differently, to be sure. What George Lucas rechanneled in his films was actually just an old philosophy known as dualism, somewhat akin to the Oriental expression of ying and yang. But the biblical truth tells us that evil is not a co-equal force with good. It exists everywhere, yes, and it is powerful and it can win out in a particular struggle we may be having, but in the end it does not have any real power over us, for if we belong to God, if we’ve given Him our heart, if we’ve asked for the Holy Spirit, then no one, not even the devil himself (and certainly not Darth Vader) will be able to snatch us from God’s palm.
Which brings us to say one last word, namely, that our task in life therefore is simply to choose God. It’s like what Joshua said to the Israelites long ago and far away. He reminded them of all that God had done in bringing them out of Egypt and then he said this:
“Now fear the Lord and serve Him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your fathers worshipped beyond the river and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve… But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” (Joshua 24.14-15)
It’s a pretty good word, even on Star Wars Day. God is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. So choose for yourself life—and the real FORCE will indeed be with you.
(And also with me.)