How Yoda Ruined My Theology

Yoda There Is No Try

Star Wars is back and is force-choking every Box Office record in its path! Amid all the hoopla, I’ve done my fair share of rewatching clips from the old movies.

Because of what Darth Lucas did to Yoda in the prequels, I had forgotten how incredibly philosophical and wise the character of Yoda was in the original trilogy.

One of the most iconic scenes is when Luke Skywalker is training with Yoda in the swamps of Dagobah. Luke’s spaceship sinks deeper into the swamp and Yoda exhorts him to use the force to raise the ship from the miry bog. “Okay,” Luke reluctantly agrees. “I’ll give it a try.”

“No,” Yoda retorts. “Try not. Do or do not. There is no try.”

In some sense, I understand what the Jedi Master is trying to say: Don’t put unnecessary limitations on yourself. But the “dark side” of such advice can destroy one’s theology of discipleship faster than the Death Star destroyed Alderaan in A New Hope.

Trying is a part of God’s salvation. This does not mean that we are saved by our trying. Rather, through grace, God’s Spirit empowers us to move toward the fullness of our salvation. God is still the mover, but we must surrender to being moved. Salvation is still the unearned and freely-given gift of God, but grace remains cooperative.

In his sermon entitled The Scriptural Way of Salvation, John Wesley writes, “From the moment of our being born again, the gradual work of sanctification takes place. We are enabled by His Spirit to overcome the deeds of the body and our evil nature. As we are more and more dead to sin, we are more and more alive to God.” He continues, “Thus we wait for entire sanctification, with full salvation from all our sins, including pride, self-will, anger, and unbelief. As the Scripture expresses it, we go on to perfection.”

Growing in God’s salvation is a gradual process. It’s not something that happens in a matter of par-secs. It requires faith, discipline, and the God-given power to grow in grace.

Sorry Yoda. There is definitely a try.

What worries me is that too many people experience justification and assume that their sinful habits have been destroyed and their seat reserved in heaven. But then, after some time passes, these people fall once again into the snares of temptation and sin regains a foothold. Faith turns to doubt and assurance turns to fear. And if Master Yoda has taught us anything, it’s that fear leads to the dark side.

What these people do not realize is that while we are justified by Christ and freed from the power of sin and death, we must still struggle against temptation and the forces of evil. We have been freed from the penalty of our sin but we must still struggle against the effects of our sin. Yes, we are justified, but we have not yet been fully sanctified. We must continue to respond to God’s grace and seek him. We must continue to confess our sins before God and one another. We must seek God in Christian community, through the sacraments, and through the means of grace.

We must continue to try, because without trying there is not sanctification.

How might this understanding of salvation change the way you approach discipleship in your ministry?

How can you foster a community of trying that celebrates success and remains gracious through failures?

About Todd Lovell

Todd is a certified youth worker in the United Methodist Church. He currently serves as the associate pastor at First United Methodist Church in Springdale, AR. He is passionate about using the practices of Christian worship for the formation of young people and the strengthening of families. You can follow him on twitter @faithhopelovell or on his personal website, www.amethodistinmotion.com.