May the Phos Be With You Redux: Luke Skywalker
No discussion of Star Wars is complete without a look at Luke Skywalker, the young boy from Tatooine who finds himself at the center of a galactic struggle between good and evil. When it comes to his character, it is easy to get caught up in all the battles he faces. From blowing up the Death Star to losing his hand in a battle with Darth Vader, there is a never-ending supply of excitement.
But just as it was with Obi-Wan Kenobi, there is more to Luke Skywalker’s story than meets the eye. When we practice common sense, discernment, and continue to follow the advice of St. Basil the Great, there are valuable lessons to be learned.
Here are Four Orthodox Lessons one can learn from Luke Skywalker:
The Greatest Battle is Often Within the Human Heart: Alexander Solzhenitsyn writes that “The line between good and evil runs through the heart of every man.” This is one of the great truths each of us can learn as men and women created in the image and likeness of God. Each of us as Orthodox Christians needs to learn to lead ourselves before we can lead others. We need to learn to heal ourselves before healing others. An immature Luke Skywalker is taught this truth by Yoda, who sends him into a cave to confront the potential of evil in his own heart. The image of Luke failing the test as he looks at his own face is a reminder that we have to be honest about our own sins and seek repentance at all times. St. Theophan the Recluse writes that, “Every Christian has the power to heal infirmities—not of others, but his own, and not of the body, but of the soul—that is, sins and sinful habits—and to cast out devils, rejecting evil thoughts sown by them.”
Being An Orthodox Christian Is About Liberation Not Domination: Just a Christ liberated men and women from death, the Orthodox Christian Faith seeks to liberate men and women from sin so that they may live as images and likenesses of God. The right use of freedom is at the center this process. We are given freedom to choose love as human beings. Archbishop Anastasios of Albania writes, “All is based on love and freedom. On the unconditional love of God, and the freedom we have to respond to that love with love. Love to all people, whether they are non-Christians and non-believers. Respect for all. Love for all. Witness to this truth of love. This is what our faith is about. This is true Orthodoxy.”
Luke Skywalker faces this choice when he duels with Darth Vader in the cloud city of Bespin. Having had his hand cut off, he is confronted with the truth that the evil man before him is his father and offered the choice between a life a domination or liberation. Darth Vader tells Luke, “If you only knew the power of the Dark Side.” Every human being from the time of Adam and Eve has faced this temptation. It is the choice between using others or loving others as God intended.
Humility And Service Is Power: Fr. Thomas Hopko writes that “According to the Gospel. . .those who would be great become small. Those who would be first, put themselves last. Those who rule, serve as slaves. Those who would be rich make themselves poor. Those who want to be strong become weak. And those who desire to find and fulfill themselves as persons deny and empty themselves for the sake of the Gospel. And, finally, and most important of all, those who want really to live have really to die. They voluntarily die, in truth and in love, to everyone and everything that is not God and of God.” Orthodox Christianity really does turn the world upside down. After losing his hand in a battle with Darth Vader and refusing his offer to turn to evil, Luke Skywalker discovers the truth that the real power of humanity comes from humility and service, not control. He embraces humility and freely turns himself over to Darth Vader so as to be brought before The Emperor. Luke knows now that the battle ahead can only be won with love and humility, not with weapons.
Mercy Is a Mystery That Leads to Truth: God’s mercy is truly one of the great mysteries of the universe. God’s love knows no bounds and often works beyond our understanding. Christ demonstrated this mystery to the repentant thief on the cross. Mercy is also the post powerful element at the end of Star Wars. When Luke Skywalker gives in to the Emperor’s temptation to take up his lightsaber against his father, it is only mercy—not strength—that overcomes evil. It is mercy that prevents Luke from destroying Darth Vader and becoming the Emperor’s new apprentice, and it is mercy that breaks evil’s hold on Darth Vader and compels him to sacrifice himself for Luke. St. Dorotheos of Gaza writes, “In the mercy of God, the little thing done with humility will enable us to be found in the same place as the saints who have labored much and been true servants of God.”
Much like the heroes of Ancient Greek Literature, Luke Skywalker lived a life that has many lessons to teach us.
As it is with every great story, the story of Star Wars is an invitation to reflect on the greatest story in the history of creation. It is the true story the Church has been teaching for two-thousand years. It is the story of God becoming man and the mercy of a Father so great that no person is ever beyond His love.
And unlike Star Wars, the good news is that we are all central characters in this never-ending story where death is already defeated.
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