Sunday, December 15, 2013

How Harry Potter Helps Me Understand the Bible

One of the funny phrases that gets used at my school a lot is "eschatological reversal." (Now that I almost have a Master's degree, I know how to spell that.) It's basically a fancy way of talking about what happens when Jesus steps on the scene of our world-- about what He started in His first coming, and what He will fulfill and finish when He returns. 

Now a lot of times the story gets told as if Jesus came to "die for our sins" and that's it. And, it's true that He did die to pay the penalty we owed-- "the wages of sin is death"-- and He did it on purpose; giving Himself as a sacrifice to save sinners was central to His mission. But that glorious gift is located within the larger context of His plan to establish His Kingdom-- His rule-- on earth. So in that sense, His death and resurrection was not just a payment for sinners, but a battle against the dark powers that had taken over the whole place. Jesus won (He rose again! He beat death itself!), announced His victory, and declared Himself King. 

So in one sense, being a Christian is saying you want to live on an earth in which Jesus is King. It's saying you want to be His subject, and choosing to live as though He is King now-- (because that's what His resurrection inaugurated; He defeated the foreign enemy!) Being a Christian means living expectantly for His return, when all doubts will be removed. Now if you're a good democratic American, maybe you want to know what Jesus is like as King before you sign up to "seek first His Kingdom." That's where eschatological reversal comes in-- it's an aspect of His Kingship. There's talk of what it means all throughout the gospels: "He has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate;" "every valley and hill will be made low;" "the last shall be first and the first shall be last." 

When I was a kid, I heard that stuff and thought, "how unfair!" But here's what I didn't know as a kid: biblical language about the rich and the poor, "the mighty and the humble," the first and last, etc. has to do with injustice and oppression. As privileged Americans, we aren't overly familiar with these realities on a broad scale, so it's hard for us to even think in these categories. But essentially Jesus' Kingship means that those who've been oppressed by corrupt people in power will be freed. Those who have been exploited and mistreated will be lifted up and protected. And those who've deceitfully, wrongly, or manipulatively abused others to get to their positions of power will no longer be able to get away with it. Jesus' coming "judgment" is a good thing, because it means justice. Whether you're democratic or monarchic now, one thing is for sure: Jesus' fair and righteous government is what you long to see.

So, why am I writing about all this? Well, the truth is, it's because last night we watched Harry Potter. And at the end of the movie, Slytherin is in first place for the House Cup and Gryffindor in last place. But everyone knows Slytherin shouldn't win; they're cruel, they take advantage of people, and they cheat. Everyone knows that it's Gryffindors who actually helped save the school and deserve to be honored. And at the last minute, Dumbledore brings justice. He acknowledges the sacrifice of four main Gryffindors, giving them enough points to put them in the lead. Gryffindor wins! Now part of me wanted to roll my eyes and subdue my longing for this kind of justice with, "how cheesy. This ending is too good to be true." But the other part of me wanted to cheer and cry and wish this kind of thing happened in real life.  

That's when I realized, it will. From our jaded perspective-- rightly developed after a lifetime in a corrupt, sin-filled world-- Jesus' Kingship means an ending that is too good to be true. But because of His defeat of the very evil that causes corruption, He's recreating the world to be more like Hogwarts than Sudan, or Syria, or even America. When He returns to sit on His throne, the last shall be first. And we all will cheer. 

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