Science fiction fans welcomed the release last week of “The Revenge of the Sith,” the final movie in the Star Wars series of films. Third in a series of six (produced out of order), the film reveals how Anakin, the good Jedi knight, becomes the bad guy, Darth Vader.
Though a tale of a galaxy long, long ago, the film does point up some unlovely qualities of the evil that exists in the world.
1. The dark side twists good into evil.
The Chancellor’s manipulation of Anakin to turn him to the dark side reminds one of the serpent’s conversation with Eve in the Garden of Eden. Lies, hypocrisy, and deceit were all tools to prevail against the good and win over others to his side. The Jedi knights were in it for themselves, the Chancellor said. God is holding something back, doesn’t want you to have this knowledge, intimated the serpent (Genesis 3:5). Satan is the father of lies (John 8:44). He promises what he cannot deliver, just as the Chancellor promised to save Anakin’s wife, though he later let escape that he didn’t yet have the power.
2. The dark side is concerned with power for self.
To be one’s own god has always been the primary temptation. Undiluted power to serve one’s own desires is the goal. Even before becoming Darth Vader, Anakin is already thinking of the Empire as his, already considering that he will be more powerful than his evil mentor and entertains overthrowing him. “You will be like God,” was the carrot the serpent held forth to Eve. And Satan wanted worship from Jesus.
We need not look far for the man of lawlessness “who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of god, proclaiming himself to be God” (2 Thessalonians 2:4). Herod reveled in the people’s praise, “The voice of a god and not of a man!” (Acts 12:22). Idolatry is, in essence, a worship of self, an exaltation (and exaggeration) of one’s own powers.
3. The dark side is chosen.
Anakin takes a long slide into the dark side, but not against his will. He makes a series of choices that lead him to it. He allows himself to be deceived. He believes lies that massage his ego, appeal to his passions, and serve his interests.
The real-world side of evil presents even a bleaker picture. We all choose the dark side. Force of will does not prevent us from falling into the shadow of evil. We are all Anakins in our own way. We choose evil and turn away from good. In the end, it is only one decision that can reverse our wrong choices ? repentance from evil works to God, turning from idols to serve the Lord (see 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10).
4. The dark side is pervasive.
Even the good Jedi knights, especially Yoda, occasionally warn one another of the possibility of sliding down the path to the dark side. Anyone can fall. Even good plans and actions may be perverted. The struggle against the dark side is an all-out war, requiring every effort, every resource, every person. It is a war that the enemy has brought into our own nation, into our communities and homes. The dark side is not far away, but surrounds us and pulls at us from every side. Those we consider our greatest allies may be revealed as our greatest enemies.
Satan disguises himself as an angel of light, his servants as if pursuing righteousness (2 Corinthians 11:13-15). False prophets arise among the shepherds (Acts 20:28-30). The adversary lurks and prowls, waiting to pounce on an unsuspecting soul; he must be resisted and repulsed (1 Peter 5:8,9; James 4:7). The overconfident is in for a tumble (1 Corinthians 10:12).
5. The dark side destroys.
Anakin went to the dark side because he wanted to save his wife. His selfish love (“I can’t live without you”) and his choice of that path resulted in his being responsible for her death. The dark side is incapable of producing good, of sustaining life, but eliminates, abolishes, enslaves, corrupts, pollutes. Only God is good (Luke 18:19), and every good thing emanates from him (James 1:16,17). Apart from him, we find only perdition, desolation, and ruin.
6. The dark side doesn’t really satisfy.
After the movie, my son Joel wanted to rent the next (and original) of the series because he left feeling depressed. We all did. The movie ends with the evil Darth Vader becoming fully what he was. Justice is now a byword for the oppression of the First Empire. Peace means the Emperor has crushed the opposition. The Senate could applaud the installation of the Empire, but the senators cheered themselves into profound grief.
Sin is a waterless cloud (Jude 12). The false prophet promises liberty and delivers chains (2 Peter 2:19). Carnal desires constantly cry for more (Ecclesiastes 1:8; 5:10), “greedy to practice every kind of impurity” (Ephesians 4:19). Man’s eyes for the things of this world are never satisfied (Proverbs 27:20).
Some say that evil is more interesting than good. After the previous Star Wars movie, in which the evil Darth Maul became something of an icon, it would seem that wrong has more fascinating facets than good. But this is yet another lie of the dark side. And this is why, even though the Star Wars series speaks less of the good side, it brings all to a happy ending.
But to get to the happy ending, we must overcome the dark side, not by some mysterious force pervading all of nature, but by the power of God focused upon his people for the accomplishment of his will in Christ.
As Yoda would say, overcome the dark side we will.
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