I’m not sure if you heard, but a new Star Wars movie came out last week. Like every Star Wars movie before it, The Last Jedi is steeped in a pop-Buddhist philosophy that some Christian viewers will find problematic. However, like every Star Wars movie before it, TLJ also has some powerful truths it stumbles on that are worth reflecting on both as Christians and leaders.
CAUTION: Mild spoilers to follow. You’ve been warned!
There’s a scene late in the film where Luke Skywalker, wracked by guilt from past mistakes, drives away his young apprentice, Rey. Shortly after a wise mentor shows up and tells Luke that while he has much strength to offer as a teacher—mastery of the Force, wisdom from his years of experience—the greatest lesson he can impart to Rey are his failures. At the risk of giving away who this wise mentor is, the exact advice given to Luke is “the greatest teacher, failure is.”
It’s a lesson all leaders should take to heart.
The Last Jedi and Scriptural Principles
The easiest trap in the world for pastors is to believe their position puts them on a spiritual pedestal, a trophy of spiritual, mental and emotional strength for their church to see. The problem is that we aren’t any of those things. Mixed in with our strengths are our weaknesses, flaws, inabilities, and failures, and we can do one of two things with them: Hide them, or reveal them, own them, learn from them, and use them to benefit others.
What Paul Said
This is modeled by no less than the apostle Paul. Speaking to a very flawed church in Corinth, Paul is transparent about his own weaknesses. In 1 Corinthians 2 Paul says that when he first came to the Corinthians, “I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling.”
Or consider 2 Corinthians 12, where Paul recounts his struggle with a “thorn in the flesh.” God tells Paul that he won’t remove this thorn, but that God’s grace is enough and in Paul’s weaknesses God will be made strong. After this, Paul concludes “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”
What Jesus Said
This mirrors Jesus’s teachings about true greatness, where the last are first, the greatest serve, the poor in spirit are blessed, and the meek inherit the earth. God’s kingdom, and thus leaders in his kingdom, are broken, imperfect, sinful people pointing toward a God whose light shines in the darkness of our life.
So how much are you like Luke, ashamed of your past or present sins and therefore running away from them? How willing are you to let people in on your mistakes? Do you voluntarily knock your pedestal over, stand at the same level of those you lead, and point to God? Because just like with Luke Skywalker, we’ll never lead at our full capacity until we do.