From “May the force be with you” to the chosen one (Luke) bringing restoration over evil through his defeat of the Death Star, the Star Wars franchise continues to resonate with spiritual themes.
Now 40 years in the making, Star Wars: The Last Jedi will bring Luke Skywalker’s story to a new generation, this time featuring new heroes and villains. As Jedi-junkies prepare for this new chapter in the “Star Wars” storyline, we take a moment to highlight five biblical concepts featured in past episodes.
We Have a Destiny to Fulfill
In Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, Darth Vader challenged Luke Skywalker to “fulfill your destiny.” While Vader had sinister plans in mind, the reference to destiny strikes deep at the heart of the Christian message.
Jesus came with a clear destiny of His own: “For the Son of Man came to seek and save the lost” (Luke 19:10). He also came to give a “spiritual destiny” to those who believe in Him, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10).
From Obscurity to Purpose
Closely connected to destiny is the journey from obscurity to purpose. In the original film, Episode IV: A New Hope, Luke arises from the undesirable desert planet of Tatooine. Through the arrival of C3-PO and R2-D2, Luke finds himself thrust into an adventure that leads to discovering his true destiny as a Jedi.
A close parallel is also found in Episode I: The Phantom Menace with Luke’s father Anakin Skywalker. Young Anakin begins as a slave on Tatooine, yet finds freedom through a surprise visit from Obi-Wan Kenobi. Anakin likewise finds his destiny as a young Jedi, becoming a Padawan learner to Obi-Wan until later turning to the dark side.
The Power of the Lightsaber
The Jedi’s special weapon is the infamous lightsaber, a laser-sword powerful enough to deflect laser fire and slice through doorways. This creative weaponry also holds a close familiarity with the biblical analogy of the Bible as the sword of the Spirit.
In Ephesians 6:10-18, the apostle Paul uses various pieces of Roman military armor to highlight aspects of attributes important in spiritual battle. The sword represents the Word of God, the one offensive weapon in Paul’s list.
Hebrews 4:12 also calls the Word of God living and active, presenting it as, “Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”
The Dark Side
The dark side of the force represents evil. It consumes Darth Vader in the original movies, along with the Emperor in Episode VI: Return of the Jedi. In Episode I: The Phantom Menace, Supreme Chancellor Valorum and Darth Maul serve as the lead protagonists, corrupted by the dark side. In the more recent Episode VII: The Force Awakens, Kylo Ren operates as the lead representative of the dark side of the force.
Though the Star Wars films take a more Eastern approach to the so-called balance of good and evil, the dark side clearly identifies with what the Bible calls sin. From Adam and Eve’s fall in the Garden of Eden, the human propensity to fall to the dark side and break fellowship with God has served as a major theme of Scripture.
Unlike the Star Wars films, however, the Bible offers forgiveness of sin through Jesus and only Jesus (John 14:16). Yes, people can and often do change for the better, but self-improvement is not sufficient to defeat sin. Only faith in Christ can provide true salvation (Ephesians 2:8-9).
There’s Still Time to Change
In Episode VI: Return of the Jedi, Luke continues to believe Darth Vader can turn from the dark side. He encourages, “There is still good in you.” Vader does, in fact, rescue Luke in the end, giving up his life to save his son.
Vader’s change represents an example of the power of the gospel as well. No one is too far from God to be saved by Him. The account of the prodigal son acknowledges that anyone who turns to the Lord will be received by Him (Luke 15:11-32). We are not saved by our works; we are saved for good works when we trust in Christ (Ephesians 2:10).
Star Wars offers an imperfect, yet intriguing look at spiritual themes ripe for discussion. Those who have watched the past films or visit theaters for the latest episode can find ample material to dialogue regarding deeper issues of tremendous importance for our spiritual lives.
Dr. Dillon Burroughs is one of America’s top communicators on today’s Christian issues. He serves as senior writer of The John Ankerberg Show and is author or coauthor of nearly 40 books. You can follow him on Facebook and Twitter. He lives with his wife and three children in Tennessee.