This Is The Way
It is no secret that I'm a huge Star Wars fan. I could talk for hours about the movies, the books, the details, the meanings and symbolism, and the future of the franchise. When I visited Disney World last November, I felt right at home at the Black Spire Outpost on Batuu (AKA Galaxy's Edge).
One of the best things to happen to the Star Wars Universe...er...Galaxy is the Disney+ hit show, The Mandalorian. If you've been living inside a giant asteroid worm and haven't seen the show or anything about it, then go watch it. I have spoken.
The show is essentially a "space western" following the eponymous Mandalorian, our main mysterious character. We don't even see his face or hear his real name until late in the series. He is a bounty hunter commissioned to bring in a high-risk, high-reward target - the 50 year old youngling affectionately named by fans "Baby Yoda."
As cute and awesome as Baby Yoda is, that's not what I want to talk about. This show gives us a glimpse into the secretive life of the remaining Mandalorians. They were once a great race of warriors from the planet Mandalore. They were renowned for their armor, their battle tactics, and their honor code. According to that code, a warrior must never remove his helmet or have it removed by another person. It symbolizes their commitment not only to their people but also to their way of life. Throughout the series you hear "Mando" and his fellow remaining Mandalorians affirm, "This is the way."
**POTENTIAL SPOILERS AHEAD**
I say "remaining" Mandalorians because their homeworld and their people were destroyed by the Empire. They were all but wiped out, and those that remain were forced into hiding as refugees throughout the galaxy. But their legends followed them. Mandalorian armor was a high value treasure that was worn by proud and boastful outsiders like Jango and Boba Fett. The real Mandalorians live in underground communities that cannot grow too large without blowing their cover. They must be careful about revealing themselves and their location. They are a tight-knit group of like-minded warriors who must keep their identities and communities safely hidden from the Empire - or what remains of it in this case.
But we also learn that "Mando" wasn't a naturally born citizen of Mandalore or the Mandalorian people. He was saved by Mandalorian warriors as a child when his own home world was invaded and attacked by the Empire. He was rescued and taken in as one of their own. He was trained in their ways and customs to become a Mandalorian warrior himself. He willingly chose to don the armor and helmet. He chose to submit himself to "The Way."
Their commitment to a specific way of life has me thinking and wondering - Are we as committed to anything in our own lives as the Mandalorians are to their way of life?
I think as Christians we can learn a lot from the Mandalorians. No, not how to shoot a rocket launcher while flying with a jet pack -- although that would be awesome! But their level of commitment should be evident in our own lives.
For the average American citizen, the strongest allegiance is to their favorite sports team. Yes, you read that right. The average American is more committed to their sports team than they are to their country, their family, their spouse, their job, or their religion. In other words, a man could divorce his wife, leave his family, quit his job, and move to Taiwan, but he will still be a Cubs fan until the day he dies.
We aren't committed to anything anymore. When surveyed, most Americans will agree with the statement that "loyalty is a declining virtue in this country." But they will ALSO agree with the statement, "I am more loyal than the average person." We see this across the spectrum. Employees are not staying with a company as long anymore. Adults are waiting longer and longer to get married and have kids. And whereas "regular church attendance" meant 2-3 times per week 15 years ago, now that has come to mean 2-3 times per month.
There is something refreshing about those people in my life who are truly committed. I admire those couples who have been married for five decades. I appreciate those workers who retire from the same company they started with. I look up to those ministers who have been with a church for 15+ years. Most of all, I want to be like those people who live consistent lives day in and day out no matter what the circumstances.
When we make a commitment to follow Christ, we are taking off the old self and clothing ourselves with Christ. When people see the main character in the first-ever live action Star Wars TV show, they don't see Din Djarin, they see the Mandalorian. He chose to put on that armor and never remove it in front of anyone. We have put on Christ. Are we willingly taking off our "armor" for all the world to see? When people look at me, do they see Daniel, or do they see Christ?
This is the way.
Jesus said that he is "the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through [him]." Before Christ-followers were called Christians, they were known as those who follow "The Way." This "Way" that we follow is a life altogether different from that of the world. We are living as foreigners and strangers. We are living as small outposts of the Kingdom of Heaven. Our citizenship is not with any nation on earth, it is in Heaven. We are small groups of highly committed followers of The Way who invite others in and encourage them to put on Christ.
We are warriors, but our battle is "not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms." We don't wage war, we wage peace. We don't pick up weapons, we turn them into farm tools. We don't return evil for evil, but we overcome evil with good and pray for our enemies. Our way of life is shaped by a tool of execution wielded by the Empire. We don't fight for our lives, but we pick up our cross daily willing to go to our deaths. Our way of life looks like foolishness to the world, but is good news to those who are perishing under the weight of life's demands.
"We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed."
This is the way.