This issue of SpiritWalkers has Harry Potter spoilers. Stop now if you still want to be surprised in your own reading!!!
Hebrews 13:2 “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.”
There are lots of ways to approach this verse, but the thing that moves me this week is the idea, evident in many parts of Scripture, that God and God’s messengers are not always easily recognized. You can, in fact, have angels staying in your home, eating breakfast and snoring on the couch, and not see them for who they really are.
Jesus, of course, is the most obvious example of this, but all the way back to Abraham, the Bible has been telling us that God does not show up with a nametag. Mother Teresa talked about the “distressing disguise” of the poor and Jesus talked about being present in the sick, the hungry—even those in prison—when people didn’t realize it. In preferring to be anonymous, God encourages us to treat everyone with charity. Because, after all, you never know.
And so it is with Harry Potter. Those of you who know my bent toward the fantastical will not be surprised that I am a fan, nor will you be surprised that I get infuriated with Christians who simply cast off the books as evil because they happen to have magic in them. This is a life-long frustration, as I had my first article published (back in my twenties) about how fantasy literature had shaped my faith. The letters to the editor blasted me for being a heathen and an agent of Satan for finding faith in…ummm…Narnia and Lord of the Rings. The Christian Right is a bit more educated now, and they reserved blocks of seats at the Narnia movies. But the lessons don’t seem to carry forward to poor Harry.
Ironically, it comes from the other side as well. I read a piece in the Globe a couple weeks back that talked about how (unlike Narnia and Lord of the Rings) there was no God in Harry Potter. It wasn’t a Christian-Right piece, it was a secular writer eager to have fantasy literature without religion in it.
Well, God is not wearing a nametag in the Harry Potter series. But I smiled as I read book 7. They weren’t identified as such, but two important quotes are directly pulled from the Bible. Verbatim. “The last enemy to be destroyed is death.” (1 Cor. 15:26) and “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” (Matt. 6:21) And, let’s see. The whole series has been focused on love as the greatest power (1 Cor. 13) and the willing sacrifice of self to save others. Gee, isn’t that pretty central to Christian faith? Oh yeah, there’s life after death for good and evil alike (although in different conditions) and resurrection.
The great evil of Voldemort is driven by the fear of death. He abuses power, seeks to harm the meek and lowly, and distinguishes some races as more worthy of life than others. He has no remorse, no empathy, and will even splinter his own soul in an attempt to ensure immortality. Author J.K. Rowling said in a post-release interview that all of the characters could be defined by their attitude toward death. Voldemort will do anything to avoid it. Harry embraces it for the sake of others and virtually every other “good” character in the series is willing to do the same—not eagerly like those with a martyr complex, but if love can find no other way. Harry’s sacrifice, like his mother’s, does not turn out to be foolish. It saves. And then he comes back. Gee, where have I heard that story before?
Do show hospitality to Harry Potter. I’m pretty sure you’re entertaining angels.
Help me, Lord, to recognize you when you come. Even without your nametag. Amen.
SpiritWalkers is available in audio as a podcast. Visit www.annerobertson.com/poddevotions.html to subscribe or to listen online.
Be sure to check out my books: Blowing the Lid Off the God-Box and God’s Top 10: Blowing the Lid Off the Commandments. Order now on Amazon.com or check local bookstores.
Una lux sola tenebras dispellet