Mine is a Star Wars family. I was in the last days of 4th grade when what is now called Star Wars, Episode IV: A New Hope came out. I was mesmerized and saw it in the theater seven times over the course of a year. Yep, movies stayed in theaters a long time way back then.) And now my kids and I enjoy watching them together, along with the new movies (except The Phantom Menace, which I will not allow them to see, for it doesn’t not exist in my imagination).
But one of the things that has always bothered me is this: Where do all those storm troopers come from? Who signs up to serve and die for the Empire? Doesn’t everyone know they’re the bad guys? Who signs up to be a faceless bad guy?
Then I came across these brilliant faux Empire recruiting posters online and I realized, the Empire is always recruiting. And by “Empire,” I no long refer to Star Wars. I refer to what the Scriptures call the “world.”
In a biblical imagination, the “world” doesn’t refer to the physical earth or anything in the cosmos. The “world” refers to humanity as we stand against God. In contrast to the “world,” “heaven” refers to God and all of creation which stands with God. (Heaven isn’t a place you go to, but a kingdom you participate in.)
In the Star Wars imagination, the Empire is more than just the Emperor and his Sith henchmen. The Empire is the manifestation of corruption in the galaxy. It offers power and wealth in exchange for allegiance. But it lies and cheats, wheedling into hearts and backing out of promises. It uses its pawns and casually discards them. It’s a pretender, puffing itself up as if it’s something; but when popped, its hot air quickly leaks out.
We are so easily impressed by such imposters.
We see this played out in 1 Samuel 17, where everyone in Israel is in awe of Goliath. They all know his stats, almost as if they keep his baseball card in their back pockets.
His height: 6 cubits and a span.
His helmet, greaves, and javelin: bronze.
His coat of bronze mail: 5,000 shekels in weight.
His spear shaft: Life a weaver’s rod.
His spear head: 600 shekels in weight.
They knew all this stuff. The talked about it. And possibly, the numbers grew inflated over time as they kept retelling it.
He was physically impressive. He came from an impressive people. He talked impressively.
But he died easily. One smooth stone to the forehead and he was done. (Kinda like one smooth shot into an exhaust port in the Death Star ….)
What it took was one young man who was more impressed with God than with the world. One person who kept saying God’s name while everyone else was saying Goliath’s name. One person who prayed while everyone else whimpered.
The world is always seeking new recruits, just like the Empire. And it keeps offering empty promises — big promises but empty ones — and we keep falling for them over and over again.
On one hand, we keep falling for the propaganda of how great the world is. On the other hand, we keep being awed by its seemingly unstoppable power and wealth. But it’s all bluster and bluff.
The riches of our God outshine the so-called riches of the world. And the might of our God dwarfs the over-hyped power of this world.
We need a new imagination to inspire a new hope. The Empire will strike back when we resist it. But God will prevail.
We are a part of a kingdom that looks as unimpressive as a mustard seed but which goes underground, grows up secretly, and infiltrates every part of the world, taking it over by inches instead of by miles.
But again, it requires a different imagination than the one the Empire is promoting, one which changes absolutely everything.