The Spirit of Unforgiveness

There was story in the news recently, the details of which I will not go into for they are not the purpose of this post. But if you “Google” Josh Duggar, I’m certain you will come up with plenty of information about the situation. I discussed in a previous post that I believe that everyone has a Darth Vader, Anakin’s was after power and recognition, and mine was after control. You see, American discovered that Josh Duggar has a Darth Vader, and most people can now only see shining black armor and a red lightsaber.

I saw in (most of) the responses to this undeniably bad news, a lack of grace and unwillingness to forgive. People tossing statistics and hopes that Josh’s past will be daily rubbed in his face. Something that I did not see, a lot of, was the willingness to see that Josh has changed, he is not that person anymore. The Duggar’s chose to make this information public, knowing full well that the “boom” would be lowered on them with much more force and severity. Why? Because they are Christian family. And the general public expects Christians to be perfect rather than the broken, saved by grace people that we are. Imperfection requires forgiveness, which can be difficult because it goes against our human nature. Its easy to be angry and to hurl someone’s past in their face. But Jesus calls us to forgive, it says in Matthew 18:21-22, “Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.”

This begs the question. Why would Jesus call us to do something that can be so difficult? Because He knows that the unwillingness to forgive can be draining, that grudges get heavy, and that bitterness can steal our joy. To be clear, forgiveness does not mean that one should forget or to quote the popular phrase, “Sweep it under the rug.” But rather chose to recognize that the person has changed and/or to release your own spirit from the burden of carrying a grudge, which can lead to anger.

Obi-Wan also carried within him the spirit of unforgiveness, he believed that Anakin had been completely devoured by the dark side of the force. He could not see past Anakin’s mistakes (which yes they where HUGE mistakes) but, he also refused to even allow the possibility that Anakin could change or that any goodness could be left in him. According to the book, The Life and Legend of Obi-Wan Kenobi, Obi-Wan’s spirit was present (but unseen) during Luke’s battle with Darth Vader on the Death Star at the end of Return of the Jedi. And he was completely shocked that Anakin managed to fight his way back from the dark side.

“And suddenly Obi-Wan realized where he had failed. For unlike Luke, Obi-Wan
had not only believed that Anakin was completed consumed by the dark side,
but had actually refused to believe that any goodness could have remained within
Vader. And by refusing to allow that possibility, Obi-Wan had condemned not
only his former friend but his own capacity for hope.”

Jesus calls us to forgive because He knows that it will not only benefit us, but also has the potential to benefit the one who sinned against us. Luke’s willingness to forgive helped Anakin regain his true self and I’m sure that the Duggar family’s willingness to forgive did the same for Josh. And if God can forgive, then with the strength, humility, and peace that is gained by reaching for Him, we humans can forgive too.

If you are carrying the spirit of unforgiveness I encourage you to pray for the strength to forgive.

“Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” -Colossians 3:13

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True Friendship….a Revisit

I just finished reading (for the forth or fifth time), The Rise and Fall of Darth Vader. I know what you may be thinking and yes it is 211 pages of awesome. But that is beside the point, I came upon a passage that was a conversation between Darth Vader and Emperor Palpatine. I mentioned in my previous post about friendship, the fact that Palpatine calls Vader/Anakin “friend” 4 times. This bugs me because the last thing that Palpatine ever was to Anakin or Vader was a friend. According to the book this conservation had occurred several times and started with the same taunting question:

Palpatine: “Are you afraid of death, Lord Vader?”
Darth Vader: “No, Master.”
“Then why do you go on living?”
“To learn to become more powerful, Master.”
“Do you seek such power so you might try to strike me down?”
“You are my path to power, Master. I need you.”
“Yes, my apprentice. Remember, your place, and that you have much to learn.”

Now compare this conservation with the last talk that Obi Wan had with Anakin before he turned to the dark side. Obi Wan was about to leave on his mission to find General Grievious, and Anakin took this opportunity to apologize for his recent behavior. In response Obi Wan said, “Anakin, you are strong and wise and I am very proud of you. I have trained you since you were a small boy. I have taught you everything I know and you are far greater Jedi than I could ever hope to become. But be patient Anakin, it will not be long before the council makes you a Jedi Master.”

The way that each of these men talk to Anakin is very different, one seeks tear him down and the other, to lift him up. One really was a true friend, one other was only using Anakin in his own quest for glory and power. One loved Anakin, and the other, most certainly did not.

People flow in and out of our lives, probably more often than one may notice. Most are trustworthy and honest, although few may use us for their own selfish needs, whether it be attention, money, or time. Much like Palpatine (although not nearly as severe), these “friends” are not going to look out for the needs of the other person. And will probably move on to someone else, when a better opportunity presents itself. It is important to know who your true friends are, they will tell you what you need to hear rather than what you want to hear. They won’t push you into something that you are not ready for, and will value your happiness and well-being. The Bible teaches about love in several places and in 1 John 4:7 it states, “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.” Love, is important, from it flows, hope, trust, patience, understanding, and forgiveness. Without love it’s difficult to be true friend. For if you love someone, regardless of how much, a friendship will surely blossom.

Friendship is not always easy, and it certainly wasn’t for Anakin and Obi Wan, but love (that is the love that Luke had for Anakin) is what brought him back. And Obi Wan, well, he was ready to forgive Anakin, and welcome him back as a friend.

The Importance of One

What can one person do? What can the hope and faith of one do for those who are lost? Let us think about Luke Skywalker, an important leader in the Rebel Alliance, new hope for the Jedi Order and…..the son of Anakin Skywalker. Luke wasn’t too pleased when he discovered that Darth Vader was his father, in fact his exact word was, “Nooooooo!” This revelation at first was horrible, but in the end this gave Luke the opportunity and the desire to look at Anakin differently, not as Darth Vader but as his father, Anakin Skywalker. Luke was the first person in 20 years, who saw past his mistake and challenged Anakin to make a change. He spoke the truth over him, saying words that went through Darth Vader and found Anakin’s heart.

In Romans 12:21 it says, “Do not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good.” Hate can not be overcome by hate. Fear can not be overcome by fear. Anger can not be overcome by anger. All of the people that had been close to Anakin were either dead or had given up on him, both Yoda and Obi Wan were convinced that dark path was something no one could come back from, Anakin especially. Luke chose to believe that there was good in Darth Vader, even though no one else believed him, and he felt that he at least had to try even if he was wrong, he knew he had to try.

God calls us to be lights in the darkness, to love on people and always speak God’s best over their lives. As 1 Peter 4:8 says, “Above all love each other deeply because love covers a multitude of sins.” Luke chose to love Darth Vader because Anakin was inside and Anakin, his father, was worth fighting for. We shouldn’t sit around and wait for someone else to do what God has called us to do, don’t allow fear to make you complacent or inactive. Its that one moment in a sea of a million others, that moment is what matters, give it to God and He’ll take care of the rest. The moment where we choose to be kind, where we choose to be joyful or where we chose to speak about what we believe to be truth. It is never to late for someone to make a change in their lives and it can be the calling of Christians to speak that truth over those who have given up on themselves.

Anakin had been buried under 20 years of anger, hate and oppression, it destroyed him and most of the people around him. The hope of one person and Luke’s faith in Anakin’s goodness proved to be stronger than the power of the dark side. One person brought Anakin back and saved him from darkness…one person. So overcome evil with good, love each other deeply and hold strong to your faith because as the Bible says it truly can move mountains.

Grace Enough for Darth Vader…and then some!

Grace, the exercise of love, kindness, mercy, favor: disposition to benefit or to serve another. Grace is mentioned several times in the Bible like in John 1:16 which says, “Out of His fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given,” some translations even say grace upon grace. So God gives us ALL grace on top of grace, a double portion. We are all recipients of grace, it is through grace that we are forgiven, it is because of grace (which is there to catch us when we fall) that we can go out and speak the truth of Jesus to the world.

God doesn’t hold grace back from anyone, even Darth Vader. Darth Vader?! But Darth Vader said all that stuff and did all those things! Yes he did, but in the end grace came rushing back to his true identity, Anakin Skywalker. Why? Because he opened himself up to it, even though he didn’t think that he deserved it. Nobody deserves grace but, we all receive daily, its always there. God doesn’t look at how someone behaved that day and decide how much grace they will get because He doesn’t base it on actions. It says in Romans 11:6, “And if by grace, then it can not be based works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.” We don’t have to earn grace, its open to everyone even our Darth Vader’s.

God will reach down and light up the sky for you no matter how far you fall; He is a God who allows U-turns. We, like Anakin, will keep stumbling over where we were, what we did, what we said, trying to apologize or explain ourselves to God. He is focused on the present and the future and we are tripping over the past-thinking that it should have some effect on the present.

**Not that its not important to ask for forgiveness, God just forgives rather quickly and we don’t always notice and start dwell and keep making sure that we are really forgiven.**

After Anakin dies at the end of Return of the Jedi, the last thing he expected was to be reunited with light side of the force and that Obi Wan would be there to greet him. Pretty surprising for a guy who spent 20 years as Darth Vader and well…was the one who killed Obi Wan. When Anakin asked, “Why me?” Obi Wan said, “Because you ended the curse.” Anakin did it, he stopped it, he brought himself back from the dark side. It was his calling and he fulfilled it, then grace was there to greet him.

Who you are in God is something that nothing and no one can take away. Even when you take a detour or make a mistake, your calling is still your calling. Grace keeps it in place, because grace knows that you CAN reclaim it or even see it for the first time. Our God is a God of second chances, He will be there to pick you up when you fall ready to give you a double portion of grace. It enough for you, its enough for me and its even enough for Darth Vader…and then some!

As it says in Hebrews 13:25, “Grace be with you all.”