While reading some articles that were decidedly not devotional in nature, I ran across one that caught my attention, related to the most recent Star Wars movie. The title of the article (and a link to the contents) can be found below:
The greatest trick Star Wars ever played was making us think it was about redemption
If you haven’t watched the movie (Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker), but still want to be surprised when you do see it, this is your spoiler warning. If you haven’t seen the movie, and don’t intend to, you can certainly keep reading, but you have been warned!
In this article, the author acknowledges both that Darth Vader (Anakin Skywalker) and Kylo Ren (Ben Solo) eventually turn from the error of their ways, and they repent. That is, near the ends of their respective lives, they each agree (as do most of the other residents of their fictional galaxy) that they have done a lot of really bad things. They even have a chance to do some good things (by confronting villains with whom they had previously been allied).
However, this article effectively makes the case that neither of these characters is redeemed. Their years of assaulting innocent people (and the galaxy in general), are not atoned for, and the wrong that they have done is still on their hands. Deciding to change their ways is a positive choice, but they do not get an opportunity to made amends for all the harm that they have inflicted.
I personally think that this is a well-written article, and it makes some insightful points. There is a lot of confusion between the terms repentance and redemption. Public figures caught in criminal acts may admit their behavior, and even put an end to those practices in their lives. This represents two admirable steps, but until those people find a way to compensate those that they have harmed, they haven’t legally been “redeemed” from their earlier choices. A civil or criminal judgment against them may still take place to balance the scales, or (when there is no real way to make things right with the victim) the offender could voluntarily invest in programs that protect others from experiencing the same things.
In the unchangeable laws of the universe, the same principle applies to us: Once we have chosen to break the laws of God (the creator), we are guilty. The penalty for choosing to reject God (by contradicting His instructions through our actions) is to remain separated from Him, because our sin and His perfect holiness simply are not compatible.
Even if we repent, meaning that we stop following our own ways, and walk according to the better path that God has set out for us, we aren’t redeemed, though. We still owe the penalty of our past offenses, and while doing a lot of “good things” may endear us to others and honor God, they aren’t enough to pay our debt. Don’t get me wrong, Jesus instructed us to repent, so we should do so:
From then on Jesus began to preach, “Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near. ”
Matthew 4:17 NLT
The problem is not that repentance is bad or wrong. We should celebrate when others genuinely turn away from evil behavior. The problem is that it’s not enough.
Let’s take a look at what is required tomorrow. If you don’t want to wait, though, search the New Testament for the word “repent”, and see what other instructions most commonly accompany it. Here’s a link to streamline that process:
Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries, Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.