Guest post by Dave Wernli.
It’s the climax of the movie Return of the Jedi, the moment we’ve all been waiting for – Luke Skywalker’s final face-off with Darth Vader. Growing up in Los Angeles, my friends and I waited in line hours to see it the week it first came out at the Mann Chinese Theatre in Hollywood. We’d waited through three movies, thoroughly enjoying hating Darth Vader, for this moment, when Luke would finally triumph over Darth Vader.
When Darth Vader finds Luke’s weak spot, threatening his sister Leia, Luke comes unglued. He fights through the battle with uncontrollable hatred for his father, Darth Vader. Sure enough, Luke wins the lightsaber duel by cutting off Darth Vader’s hand. Darth Vader’s hopelessly sprawled on the edge of the chasm inside the Death Star before Luke, his life in Luke’s hands. But there’s a twist. Having just cut off Darth Vader’s mechanical hand, Luke looks at his own mechanical hand, and realizes, in his hatred, he’s becoming his father.
In case we had any doubt, the Emperor explains it to us: “Go on, kill your father, and take his place at my side.” And we suddenly realize Darth Vader’s not the real enemy here. He never really has been, he just acted like it.
Luke’s vengeance against his father gives him the opportunity to become his father. This is the choice Luke must make – to complete his judgment on his father, and hence become him, or to forgive his father. And it’s the power of Luke’s forgiveness that frees his father from his own deception under the power of the Emperor, and he saves Luke. But whether Luke lived or died, he still made the right choice. Better to die at the hands of Emperor Palpatine than to live as Darth Vader II.
There’s a spiritual principle here. We become what we judge. When I first heard this, I took some convincing. But they showed it to me in the Word of God: Romans 2:1 says, “You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.”
We become what we judge. Just like Luke, in his passing judgment on Darth Vader, would have become him. When we judge our parents (or others who hurt us), when we cling to our right to be offended at their offense against us, we condemn ourselves to do the same things to those we love. Hurt people hurt people. We just continue the cycle.
But the way out, the way of escape, is forgiveness. Forgiveness doesn’t mean we pretend they didn’t do evil to us and it’s suddenly magically all ok. It’s not ok. Instead, forgiveness means we come to the place where they are not the evil they did to us. They are not the enemy but under his deception.
Since learning about this, I have witnessed it to be true, both in my own life and in the lives of those close to me. When we harbor resentment and judgment, we will eventually start doing the same things, and eventually become what we hated.
But when we forgive, it sets us, and often the other person, free. Judgment sets us up to become what we judged. This is why forgiveness is so vitally important. It releases us from repeating the evil done to us on the ones we love.
Mercy triumphs over judgment (James 2:13b NIV).
What do you think?
Have you been down this road?
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Dave Wernli is an author, blogger, and speaker. He and his wife Janet help Christians stuck in brokenness live the adventure God created them for. Dave and Janet have a passion to see the Body of Christ walking whole and set free. Visit their blog at www.IdentityInWholeness.com. Dave and Janet live in Stafford, VA.