The Harry Potter stories were part of my youth. Reading about a young boy who was a wizard named Harry Potter and his best friends Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger inspired my imagination. Never once did I convert to the dark arts or worship any other God. I understand several Christians were apprehensive about this Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. For myself, I found it comparable to a fairy tale; it was another world from which my imagination could get lost for a few hours as I flicked through the pages.
As I have grown up and watched the films come to life before my very eyes, I have come to view the films in a similar way to which C.S. Lewis wrote about Narnia. I do not believe the whole series is full to the brim of Christian thought and belief. Nonetheless, I have come to see the battle between good and evil come to life and become very real in a short space of time. The way in which Harry Potter and his friends are able to stand against the ‘Dark Lord’ or ‘Lord Voldemort’ is nothing short of bravery, sacrifice and love. There are some powerful quotes and scenes of good triumphing over evil. There are also some very real scenes of loss, death and sadness. Key characters on the good side die. In the end however, all is restored as Lord Voldemort is finally defeated. Darkness is defeated for good.
That Word – Fear
As terrorism is making headlines in media outlets across the globe, I am reminded of the fear that many characters in the Harry Potter films express. They cannot mention Lord Voldemort’s name because they are so fearful. They refer to him as ‘You-Know-Who’ or ‘He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named’. As one of Harry’s best friend’s states:
“Fear of a name only increases fear of the thing itself.” Hermione Granger (Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets)
From reading between the lines, fear is the greatest weapon that these terrorists have. Words are powerful. If they can instill fear in the minds of those they seek to destroy, they are winning the battle of the mind. Much of this is assisted by the growth in technology. Technology can be used for good and bad purposes – it is a tool that can be abused if in the wrong hands. The internet enables evil words, threats and terrifying images to circulate the world like wildfire. Ideology and fear can permeate every screen, every mind and every thought. The thoughts that we process on what we read and see can begin to give birth to fear. We can begin to feel small and cut off. Our beliefs can feel threatened and compromised. Our freedom could feel as if it was about to be stolen from us. Hitler knew this when we circulated his propaganda against the Jews. Look at the disaster that followed.
One of the most powerful lines in the whole Harry Potter series for me was from the quirky Luna Lovegood. Harry Potter was feeling alone as many people did not believe him when he told others that he had seen the Dark Lord return. He felt isolated from his friends and peers. Even the one powerful wizard who Lord Voldemort feared, Albus Dumbledore, kept his distance from Harry which increased his feeling of being alone. Luna provided Harry with this insight:
“Well if I were You-Know-Who, I’d want you to feel cut off from everyone else. Because if it’s just you alone you’re not as much of a threat.” Luna Lovegood (Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix)
Numbers are power in the minds of those that want to overthrow existing systems of government, religions and culture and replace it with their own. By creating an idea that they are growing in number and strength, whilst giving the impression that their opposition are depleting and weakening, they also are creating this mindset of fear. Newspapers and online websites that fuel this propaganda are adding to this fear – it sells papers and increases visitor traffic on their websites. However, is it really necessary to dwell on a new story of terror daily? That is up for discussion and will not be explored in this post.
I am encouraged by the Paris Unity March where over a million people gathered to stand in solidarity after the Paris shootings at Charlie Hebdo. This gives a clear message of unity against terror attacks and reinforces the millions that stand up for good against the darkness. People from all different backgrounds and religions joined together in unity against this evil attack. In this instance, increased numbers was a very positive and good thing!
The good news for those that believe in the Son of God, Jesus Christ, is that we are never alone. In Joshua 1:9 it says:
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”
And again in Isaiah 41:10 it says:
So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
This is good and comforting news! We are told not to fear because God is with us. Let’s not fear evil, but overcome evil with good. We can do all things through Christ who gives us strength! God promises to strengthen us, help us and uphold us through our every day lives. That includes in the face of terrorism and evil propaganda.
In Iraq, four youths under the age of 15 were behaeaded for not renouncing Jesus Christ and their belief in Him. ISIS wanted them to turn to follow Islam. What was their response?
“No, we love Yeshua [Jesus]; we have always loved Yeshua; we have always followed Yeshua; Yeshua has always been with us”.
Where was God? Right there with them, pouring out His grace and strength so they could stand up for Jesus Christ until the end. He equipped them in that moment. God has always been with them, and that is the truth that God promises each of us that believe in Him and His Son. Now these children are with God in heaven; free from the pain and suffering brought about by this terrorism. In his letter that he wrote in prison to the Philippians, Paul encourages them to live a life worthy of the good news of Jesus until the end. He says that when we are not frightened by those who oppose us for our faith in Jesus, it is a sign to those that are afflicting us that they will be destroyed and we will be saved by God.
“Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved – and that by God. For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him, since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have.” Philippians 1:27-30
Before Paul’s life was transformed and he followed Christ, he opposed Christians and executed many. He was committing what could be perceived as acts of terrorism against God’s people. However, God intervened in his life and completely changed his heart. He was transformed from radical hatred of Christians to a real relationship with God which enabled him to write to so many and encourage them in the faith. There is hope for all people even those that hate Christians and commit evil. Paul is a testimony to that. It does not mean that they will turn away from their wickedness – we can only pray that God will soften their hardened hearts.
Why do we suffer for being a Christian?
I think Peter’s first letter (1 Peter 4:12-17) answers this. He says:
“Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God?“
Peter may have had it in mind that the people he was writing to believed that the righteous do not suffer. However, this view is contradicted by the cross of Jesus Christ who was the only truly righteous person who had to suffer and die to save all people (Alister McGrath, 2014). As we follow the will of God and become more like Jesus, we are sure to be mocked, to suffer and perhaps to face persecution. However, if this suffering starts with us on the earth, there will be a worse outcome for those who not believe in the good news of Jesus Christ. That is why there is an open invitation for all people!
I pray today that the Lord will open your heart in a new way. If you do not know the Lord personally, I pray that He becomes very real to you today and in the coming weeks. If you are a Christian, I pray that God will open up your heart, help you overcome any strongholds in your life today and encourage you in your faith and relationship with Him. Do not fear! God is with you, wherever you go!
Linking up with a brand new link up this week – Grace & Truth!