Random observation while watching Return of the Jedi for the hundred millionth time the other day: Vader doesn’t Force choke anyone in that movie.
In Episodes IV and V, Vader’s all Force choke first, ask questions never. No mercy. No kindness. No remorse. Devoted to the power of the dark side. But he really isn’t like that in Return of the Jedi.
I’d always laughed at Vader’s “The Emperor is not as forgiving as I am” before because Vader forgiving? But he’s actually more sympathetic in this movie than before: he doesn’t seem to have any desire to punish Tiaan Jerjerrod, commander of the second Death Star (I had to use google to find his name—I’m not THAT much of a Star Wars nerd). And when Luke is trying to convince him not to take him to Palpatine, Vader’s attitude is more of a “it’s too late for me, he’s too powerful, I don’t have a choice” than it is an “I love the dark side.” Possibly due to the Jedi teaching that “once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny” perhaps? And obviously he wanted Luke to help him defeat Palpatine. But the way he was speaking to Luke wasn’t at all angry and resentful. It was sad and resigned. And Palpatine was the one primarily attempting to convince Luke to turn; Vader’s few comments were only made in Palpatine’s presence.
What happened to change Vader like that? He met Luke. Luke, the boy who was convinced there was good in Darth Vader. The man who loved his father despite all the terrible things he had done, and wanted him to be a part of his life. Luke, the one who saved the galaxy with love. Love is a powerful thing. And I love seeing how just a short encounter with Luke started Vader on the path back to the light. I mean, "I'd rather fall into a bottomless pit than join the dark side with you" had to be a major wake up call. But Vader spoke to Luke through the Force, so you know there had to be some kind of connection. And while Luke did ask Yoda to confirm Vader's identity, you know he already knew. And he loved his father, enough to fight for his return to the light. And you know Vader had to feel that. Luke and Padmé were both convinced there was still good in him. And his son's love, and his love for his son brought it out. Because Luke didn't just give up on him. (Though he did kind of freak out about the idea of his sister being turned.) Love is a powerful thing.
So I just want to say, to myself as well as you, never stop fighting for your loved ones who aren’t walking in the ways they should. Yes, Star Wars is just a story and it’s unlikely any of our situations are as dramatic as that (nothing quite matches Skywalker family drama). But we may have unsaved relatives. We may know someone who indulges in destructive behaviors. We may simply know someone who is failing to reach their full God-given potential out of fear or uncertainty or goodness knows what. But we can’t stop fighting for them. Because God didn’t stop fighting for us.
And what I’d initially intended as a fun Instagram post about Star Wars just got a whole lot deeper and more serious (and too long for Instagram). But it’s really something to think about. Not everyone is going to be saved. Not every Sith will turn back from the dark side. ;) Not everyone is going to be redeemed. But that doesn’t mean we give up.
There’s a lot of bad stuff in the world due to sin. And sometimes there’s so much it gets overwhelming. But as long as there is love (and I’m not talking about romantic love here, more 1 Cor. 13 kind of love) there is still hope. We can love others. We can reach out to them. We can pray for them, fight for them. Because Christ first loved us and gave Himself to redeem us.
I’m also reminded of Kyrin Altair. Jace was in a really bad place for, well, the majority of the series, but Kyrin never gave up on him. She kept fighting. And he told her that she’s really good at sharing Elôm’s love.
I did not expect my brain to go this direction when it occurred to me Vader didn’t Force choke anyone in Return of the Jedi. But I’m glad it did. I needed the reminder to not give up. To be compassionate and kind. To love those who may not be the easiest to love. To extend to others the love my Savior showed me.
And yes, this is really the track my brain took from that starting point. My brain is a very interesting place to be.
"So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love." —1 Cor. 13:13