This past weekend, I had the opportunity to finally see the new Star Wars film, Episode VIII: The Last Jedi. And be still my heart, it was amazing.
No, this isn’t a film review. You’ll see where this is going.
I remember the first time I watched Star Wars. I was quite young and didn’t fully understand it, so I never paid much attention to it throughout my childhood. If anything, my brother was the one that loved Star Wars when we were kids.
I was in high school when I finally decided to re-watch some of the films, and I’ve loved them ever since. So you could imagine my excitement when I finally had the opportunity to see my first Star Wars film in theaters when The Force Awakens was released in 2015.
And on opening night, people. What a time to be alive.
Watching the new addition to the Star Wars franchise was incredible, with it surpassing all films created after the original trilogy. As I sat in the theater eating my soft pretzel bites (I am a self-admitted soft pretzel addict), I followed along as the plot unfolded before me. With Star Wars, there are many recurring themes and events: light saber duels, battle scenes with TIE fighters, the use of “may the Force be with you,” and so many other elements.
But there has been one recurring theme in every Star Wars film: hope. In spite of the losses the original Rebellion and the new Resistance face throughout the franchise, they always believe that good will result from their challenges. They have hope that at the end of their battles and hardships, they will ultimately overcome their enemies.
The theme of hope reminded me of something that I have been struggling with in my prayer life this past year.
As I look back upon my life, I’ve noticed something about myself. At the beginning of 2016, I prayed that God would help me realize the seriousness of sin. This may sound odd, but let me explain.
Having grown up in a Christian household and church environment my whole life, I won’t deny that I’ve had many sin-themed lessons pounded into my head over the years. And believe me, they’re all necessary. Our faith is based on the fact that God loves us so much, that He chose to sacrifice His son so that we may be free from the wages of sin through eternal life.
But the problem is that I’ve always had a more passive attitude towards it. Sure, I would recognize if I had sinned and I would repent. I would also truly try to turn from whatever that sinful action was, as to not use salvation as a “get out of jail free” card.
Thus, I’ve spent much more time in prayer on this topic, praying that God would help me take sin more seriously and understand the consequences of it.
And believe me; when you ask God to help you better understand faith and your relationship with Him, He will.
The seriousness of sin finally registered in my mind, no matter how small the action or thought seemed to me — that a split second of deciding to say, do, or think something was enough to condemn me to an eternity apart from God (had I not received His gift of salvation, for which I am forever thankful). Understanding the consequences of my decisions, whether it was seeing how it hurt others based on what I did or the guilt I experienced from it, helped me understand it better as well.
I never felt guilty about sin before this year. I would strive to not do it again out of honor and love for God (so I believed), but I never felt guilty about the sin itself.
This past year, I’ve almost done a 180-degree turn: moving from numbness to the effects of sin, to extreme guilt for sin that I feel I can’t apologize enough for.
But watching The Last Jedi this past weekend helped me understand it all better.
Despite the many times I will mess up in life because of my decisions to sin, and despite the many times in the future that I may become “numb” to the seriousness of sin again, I can have hope in God.
And make no mistake. God desires for us to turn from our life of sin, and our true love and desire to honor Him will lead us to work towards that. “‘Then neither do I condemn you,’ Jesus declared. ‘Go now and leave your life of sin (Matthew 8:11).'” Jesus said this to the adulteress who was to be stoned to death, but the same applies to us all. We are covered in grace, but it’s not an excuse for us to continue engaging in whatever sin we may struggle with.
And just because we are free from the ultimate consequence of sin (an eternity apart from God), that does not make us exempt to the consequences of our sin in this life. Those will always remain, and serve as reminders for why we shouldn’t continue to engage in whatever it may be.
I have hope in that God has already overcome sin and death, and that I am a recipient of eternal life because I’ve chosen to receive the free gift. I have hope that I am free from the chains of sin, guilt, and shame, as I’ve laid these down at Jesus’ feet in repentance. Micah 7:18-19 says this:
Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy. You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.
So yes, we can have hope. And in the moments where we feel that all hope is lost and that we will never be able to defeat our sin, we can have peace in knowing that our God has already conquered it for us.