Final Lessons from Harry Potter

Now that we have explored the lessons that we can learn from each the seven books in the Harry Potter series.  It is time to spend sometime looking at the overall lessons we can learn from the main characters that we encounter throughout the books.

The main characters that we encounter in the book can be divided into three categories.  They can be divided into those who are knowing and willingly doing evil and following their own desires, those who chose to do good and put others ahead of themselves, and finally those who do neither.  But how can we identify the members of each one of those different groups.  And to do that we are going to need to turn to the Bible.

The Apostle Paul in his letter to the Galatians gave us the characteristics of two of the three groups of people that we can divide the main characters of Harry Potter into.

You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.

So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.  Galatians 5:13-25 (NIV)

The first thing we see here is that Paul tells us “Do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love”.  Paul is telling us here that while Christ sets his followers free from the system of religion that depends only on obedience to certain rules (with no response from the heart), Christians are still accountable to follow Christ’s commands and the moral standards and principles of God’s laws.  This means that individual Christians must never use their freedom to satisfy sinful desires or practice questionable behaviors.  In addition, they must not be selfishly proud about their freedom so that they excuses to offend other sincere believers or mislead those who may be looking to them for a godly example.

The next thing Paul tells us is: “So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.”  Paul here is telling us that the spiritual conflict within believers involves the whole person-mind, body and spirit.  The struggle is whether you will give in to your own sinful desires and yield to sin’s control, or whether you will surrender to the Spirit’s demands and continue under Christ’s authority and control.  This battlefield is within each Christian, and the conflict will continue throughout your earthly lives if you are to reign with Christ in the future.  However, by relying on the power of the Holy Spirit and by following his guidance, a Christian will overcome his or her own ungodly desires and win the battle over the sinful nature.

Before we get into the heart of this passage, which is the description of the acts of the sinful nature and the fruit of the Spirit.  In verse 21 Paul says this “I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.”  Although Paul does maintain that it is impossible to earn a right relationship with God and eternal life in heaven by keeping the law or by following religious routines, he does teach that it is possible to shut oneself out of the kingdom by engaging in evil behaviors.

And now we come to the heart of this passage.

The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.  Galatians 5:19-25 (NIV)

The first thing we are going to look at is what we are going to call the acts of the sinful nature.  Sinful nature (Greek sarx) refers to the human nature with its corrupt desires, resistance to God and insistence on going its own way.  This has been in effect ever since the first man and women disobeyed God and allowed sin to enter the world and infect human existence.  The sinful nature remains within Christians even after they choose to accept and follow Christ; it continues to be their deadly enemy that battles against their spirit.  Those who continue to yield to the sinful nature cannot truly be part of God’s kingdom.  For this reason, this spiritual nature must be revisited and put to death spiritually through a continual battle that Christians must fight and win through the power of the Holy Spirit.  The acts of the sinful nature include the following:

  1. “Sexual immorality” (Greek porneia) includes intercourse and other forms of sexual contact outside of a marriage relationship.  It includes such things as pornography where sexual pleasures are fed through pictures or sexually suggestive forms of entertainment, films or writings.
  2. “Impurity” (Greek akatharsia) also refers to sexual sins, evil behaviors and ungodly motives, traits, and habits.  It includes secret thoughts and desires, which is where impurity begins and affects us morally and spiritually.
  3. “Debauchery” (Greek aselgeia) refers to shameful and abnormal behavior and a lack of self-control.  It involves selfishly following one’s passions and desires to the point of having no shame or thought for public decency.
  4. “Idolatry” (Greek eidololatria) means worshiping spirits, false gods, persons, images or anything else instead of the one true God.  Idolatry is also an issue whenever someone or something is loved, trusted or given importance over God.  Allowing anyone or anything to have equal or greater influence or authority than God and his Word is the most subtle form of idolatry.
  5. “Witchcraft” (Greek pharmakeia) includes sorcery, spiritism (attempting to contact the dead), black magic (calling on the devil or evil spirits, attempting magic for evil purposes), worship of demons and use of drugs to produce “spiritual” experiences.
  6. “Hatred” (Greek echthra) involves all forms of consuming, hostile thoughts, motives and actions, including extreme dislike, anger or desire to cause conflict.
  7. “Discord” (Greek eris) involves quarreling, causing undue tension and disunity and struggling for superiority over others.
  8. “Jealousy” (Greek zelos) refers to resentfulness or envy of another person’s situation or success.
  9. “Fits of rage” (Greek thumos) are explosive outbursts of anger that can result in violent words or actions.
  10. “Selfish ambition” (Greek eritheia) involves pursuing personal power or success without considering the desires of God or the impact it will have on others.
  11. “Dissensions” (Greek dichostasia) refers to causing divisions or introducing teachings not supported by God’s Word.
  12. “Factions” (Greek hairesis) are divisions within a church congregation or group of Christians that develop into selfish groups or cliques (exclusive groups), destroying the unity of the church.
  13. “Envy” (Greek phthonos) is a jealous and resentful dislike of another person who has something that one desires.  It can also simply imply the jealous desire to have something that belongs to someone else.
  14. “Drunkenness” (Greek methe) involves impaired mental or physical control as a result of consuming alcoholic and intoxication drinks.
  15. “Orgies” (Greek komos) refers to group activities that usually involve a number of individuals who assemble for sexual exchange or involvement as a part of pagan festivals or pagan religious practices.

Paul’s final comments on these acts are firm and forceful: anyone who claims to be a believer and participates in theses things is confessing a lie.  And those who engage in these types of activities shuts themselves off from God and do not have any part in God’s kingdom.  That is to say, they will not experience an eternal relationship with God.

Now for the big question: is there a group of people that we encounter in Harry Potter who are participating in the type of activities described above?  If you think a little bit about that question, then the answer should be obvious to you.  The group of people that should immediately come to mind should be the “Death Eaters”.  Those people who not only openly supported Voldemort, but who also took great pride in fulfilling the sinful desires of their flesh.  A group of people who were so afraid of the judgment that was going to come upon them after death, they they sought to master death or control death.  And they sought to do this in order to put off the judgment they knew in their hearts was coming for all the evil things that they had done in their lives.

Does this group of people not sound a lot like some of the people that you will encounter in the real world.  Because in the real world the people you encounter are divided into three groups: (1) those who knowingly do evil, (2) those who knowingly do good and follow God’s commands, and (3) those who think they can remain neutral in the struggle that this world is engaged in.  The “Death Eaters” represent the first group.  But now are our focus is going to be on the second group, those who knowingly do good and follow God’s commands.

Paul writes this about this group of people in Galatians 5:22-26: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.”

As you can see in contrast to the acts of the sinful nature is a God-centered, spiritually focused lifestyle that reflects the evidence of the “fruit of the Spirit”.  This lifestyle is identified by a godly, Christlike character that is produced and developed in Christians as they allow the Holy Spirit to direct and influence their lives.  Through the Spirit’s power, Christians are able to overcome and destroy sin’s power-particularly the acts of the sinful nature-and to enjoy the benefits of their personal relationship with God.  The fruit of the Spirit includes:

  1. “Love” (Greek agape) refers to the selfless, God-kind of love that cares for and promotes what is best for another person without a hidden motive of personal gain.  This kind of love is more than a willingness to make personal sacrifices for the cause of Christ and the benefit of others.
  2. “Joy” (Greek chara) is a strong inner sense of gladness that is not based on circumstances but on the love, grace, blessings, promises and nearness of God that belong to those who follow Christ.
  3. “Peace” (Greek eirene) is the inner calm and contentment based on the knowledge that one is in a right relationship with God and that God has everything under control.
  4. “Patience” (Greek makrothumia) means endurance, perseverance and the ability to wait without becoming angry, annoyed or upset.  It includes the ability to tolerate being hurt or provoked without losing one’s temper.  Patience is maintaining hope and not giving in to despair.
  5. “Kindness” (Greek chrestotes) involves true and active consideration for others.  It includes not wanting to hurt anyone or cause anyone pain.
  6. “Goodness” (Greek agathopsune) is a character trait that causes someone to do what is right and beneficial for others.  It includes a passion for truth and a hatred of evil.  It is often expressed in acts of kindness or in challenging and correcting evil and injustice.
  7. “Faithfulness” (Greek pistis) is a firm and unwavering loyalty and devotion to a person to whom one is united by promise or commitment.  It assumes being honest and trustworthy.  It requires actively following through on one’s commitments.
  8. “Gentleness” (Greek prautes) refers to the quality shown by a mild friendliness or forbearance, especially to an enemy when harshness would be the expected behavior.  Like its synonym, epieikeia, the Greek word interpreted “gentleness” has more to do with one who follows the proper way of life, and later it referred to forbearance and mildness.  A gentle person will act mercifully and appropriately.
  9. “Self-control” (Greek egkrateia) is the discipline of mastering one’s own desires, emotions and passions.  It requires depending on God to overcome temptation and remain spiritually strong and pure.  It is strongly related to faithfulness to one’s marriage vows.

Paul’s final comments on the fruit of the Spirit tells us that there are no exceptions or restrictions to the lifestyle described by the character traits listed above.  And that Christians can and must practice these character traits or qualities over and over again.  And that we will never discover a law prohibiting us from living by these principles.

The question now becomes: what group do we encounter in Harry Potter that exhibit these traits and/or qualities?  Again the answer should fairly obvious to you.  The group that should come to mind first and foremost is the “Order of the Phoenix”.  This is the group who stood in direct opposition to the “Death Eaters” and everything they stood for.  They made it a point to live lives full of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and self-control.  But there is another group that should, also, come to mind when you read the character traits that Paul wrote about in Galatians.  And that group was the teachers at Hogwarts.  (I mean the original teachers at Hogwarts not including the two “Death Eater” teachers introduced in The Deathly Hallows.)

Every single teacher at Hogwarts showed love that cares for and promotes what best for another person without a hidden motive of personal gain.  They all showed joy or a strong inner sense of gladness that is not based on circumstances but on the love, grace, blessings , promises and nearness of something more powerful than them.  They showed the inner calm, and contentment that is based on the knowledge that one is in a right relationship with God and that God has everything under control.  They showed the endurance, perseverance and the ability to wait without becoming angry, annoyed or upset.  To include the ability to tolerate being hurt or provoked without losing their temper.  They showed true and active consideration for others.  They showed a passion for the truth and a hatred of evil, that was expressed in acts of kindness and/or in challenging and correcting evil and injustice.  They showed a firm and unwavering loyalty and devotion to those to whom they were united by a promise or commitment.  They showed mild friendliness or forbearance to their enemies when harshness was the expected the behavior.  They mastered their own desires, emotions and passions.  Instead depending on God to overcome temptation and remain spiritually strong and pure.

All of these character traits led them to live lives that were markedly different than those led by the “Death Eaters”.  And this difference was manifested in a putting of others ahead of themselves.  Both the “Order of the Phoenix” (to include Harry’s closest friends)  and the teachers at Hogwarts lived lives where they sacrificed their own sinful and selfish desires in order that others could live in freedom.

And now we come to the third group of characters that we mentioned.  And that group are those who chose to remain “neutral” in the struggle that they see going on around them.  And in the book of Revelation Jesus had some very strong words for people like this.

I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.

Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.  Revelation 3:15-20 (NIV)

The words that John records here were spoke by Jesus to the church in Laodicea.  This city was a wealthy center of business and trade.  The atmosphere of prosperity had led to spiritual laziness and unconcern in the church.  They were no longer “hot” enough to recognize or respond to the Holy Spirit’s guidance; and they were not quite “cold” enough to realize their need to repent and return to dependence on God.  Which tells us four things about Christ’s view of Churches like the one in Laodicea.

(1) A lukewarm church is one that is apathetic and negligent about personal devotion to Christ.  It is a church that is half-hearted and lazy in its service to God.  Such a church compromises with worldly standards and behaviors and soon resembles its surrounding society more than it does God’s kingdom.  The people of Laodicean church claimed to be committed Christians, yet in reality they were in a spiritually “wretched” and “pitiful” condition.

(2) Christ severely warns the church about his judgment against spiritual lukewarmness.  (3) Christ calls to the church to repent-to turn from their own way, surrender to God’s way and accept his forgiveness.  Then they could be restored to a right relationship with him.  (4) Christ knocks on the door of a lukewarm church, desiring to come in and restore his companionship and blessing with the people.  To those who remain devoted and strong in their faith and are over comers in the midst of a lukewarm church, Christ promises that they will share in his authority and ultimately reign with him.

The church at Laodicea’s outward prosperity had made them blind to their deep spiritual need.  And we see three distinct things about churches like the church at Laodicea.  (1) According to Jesus, the church people were, in reality, as “wretched” and “pitiful” as those in the society around them who did not know Christ.  They were “blind” to their own spiritual condition and did not have the vision of how they could use their wealth and benefits to spread Christ’s message.  They were “naked” in that they were no longer clothed with the power and purity of God, unable to see that their prosperity was not evidence of God’s blessing.

(2) Christ spoke directly to their source of pride and dependence on their own abilities and resources.  The city of Laodicea was known for its wealth, but God told them they needed to be rich toward him with a true and tested spiritual wealth of fait that could not be corrupted and was worth far more than worldly riches.  The city had an extensive textile industry, but Christ instructed them to put on his clothing of purity and right relationship with him.  The city also produced a famous eye salve or ointment, but only God could help them see their true condition and receive the clarity of sight that only comes from yielding to the guidance of the Holy Spirit and holding firm to God’s word.  (3) In order to keep from becoming spiritually “lukewarm”, the church and its people today must constantly ask themselves: Have we taken God’s generous blessings for granted and allowed them erode our desperate and personal passion for Jesus?

The very last verse of this passage says this, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me” (v. 20).  This verse is often cited as an invitation for “unsaved” individuals who have yet to receive spiritual salvation and personal relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ.  However, while that is a valid invitation, we must also keep in mind that Christ originally gave this message to a church whose people had neglected their relationship with Christ and were out of touch with him.  In its self-sufficient prosperity and worldliness, the church in Laodicea has excluded the Lord Jesus Christ from its congregations.  Christ invitation, spoken from outside the door, is a request for renewed companionship with any individual who will turn from his or her own way and return to a devoted faith and renewed passion for Christ.  Christ’s invitation is to sit down at the table with them and share spiritual nourishment.  The Bible also speaks of a great “wedding supper” for Christ and his bride-the church.  But only those who “eat” with Jesus now will eat with him then.

Now for the question that you have all been waiting for.  What group of characters in Harry Potter does this sound like?  It sounds exactly like the “Ministry of Magic”.  Where the vast majority of the people employed there were more interested in maintaining the status quo and not fulfilling the mission they had been given.  In other words they were more concerned with losing those things that the world said were valuable, then with being different from the world.  Which leads us into the last two characters that we need to look into.

You have probably noticed that we have not talked about the two main characters so far.  And that is because Harry and Voldemort give us the most perfect example of the final lesson that we get from Harry Potter.  For you see Harry and Voldemort are both remarkably similar.  They both grew up in very similar circumstance and they both had similar skills, abilities and talents.  But what then made them turn out so different?  The answer to that question lies in six verses from Matthew 6 which say:

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

“The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!

“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”  (Matthew 6:19-24 NIV)

For you Harry and Voldemort had different ideas about where their “treasure” should be stored.  And as you can see Jesus had some very specific words to say about that also.

In fact Jesus emphasized the fleeting value of world wealth.  The larvae of the moth could quickly destroy valuable fabrics that were treasured by the ancients.  And the “rust” is literally “eating”.  It can refer to the pitting of metal coins or to vermin that ruin valuable food stores.  Jesus further taught the one’s “heart” truly belonged to what it most treasures.  Since a disciple is to love God with all their heart, love for material possessions and riches is a subtle form of idolatry.

In the middle two verse (“The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!”) Jesus is referencing what Jewish writers taught about generous and miserly attitudes.  They taught that a good eye represented a generous attitude and that a bad eye represented a stingy or miserly attitude.  The bad eye (an improper perspective on wealth) results in a deep internal darkness, a moral blindness that diminishes the ability to see and pursue what is good.

What Jesus is saying here is that we must be extremely careful about what we look at and what we expose ourselves to.  Our eyes are like lenses that flash images onto our minds-like film in a camera-leaving a graphic impression on our thoughts and memories.  If we look at ungodly and impure images, they will cloud and corrupt our minds so that we will not be able to see what God has for us or where he wants to guide us.  Yet, if we choose to expose ourselves to good and wholesome things, the Lord will continue to give us spiritual light and truth to our minds and guide us down the right paths for our lives.

And in the very last verse Jesus says this, “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”  In this verse Jesus is telling us that people have a sinful tendency to make an idol of money, which then competes with God for their allegiance.  Which means to serve money is to place such a high value on it that we allow a desire for it to be a main factor in our life decisions and priorities, place our trust and faith in it, depended on it for our ultimate security and happiness, expect it to guarantee our future and desire it more than we desire God’s plans and purposes.  And that greed and the accumulation of wealth soon dominate our minds and life so that honoring God is no longer the main priority in our lives.

All this means that the answer to our original question about what the difference between Harry and Voldemort?  Is very simply the choices that they made.  Dumbledore put it best when he told Harry this at the end of Chamber of Secrets “It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than abilities.”  Which is what our final lesson from Harry Potter is.  We have to choose what side we are going to be on.  Joshua at the end of his life said this to the people of Israel:

“Now therefore fear the LORD and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.”  Joshua 24:14-15 (ESV)

God invites all people to have a personal relationship with him, but he does not force himself on us.  He gives us a choice, and we all decide for ourselves whom we will follow in life.  As with Joshua and the Israelites, serving the Lord is not simply a one-time choice.  Those who follow God must continually make the choice to pursue his plans and do what is right.  That requires deep reverence for God, a firm commitment to his truth, a sincere desire to fulfill his goals for your life and a strong determination to resist the appeal of sin.  Failing to choose to love and serve God will eventually result in judgment and destruction.  The question to you is now is  whom do you choose to serve?  But choose wisely because your choice has eternal consequences.

I hope that you have gained a deeper insight into Harry Potter through reading this book.  I hope that you have learned somethings that you may not known before through reading this book.  But more importantly maybe you have reached a decision about your relationship with God.  If that is the case then these last few words are directed towards you.

If you have made the decision to enter into a right relationship with God, then here is what you need to know.

  1. We have to recognize that everyone sins.

“for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”-Romans 3:23 NIV

  1. We have to recognize the penalty for our sin is death.

“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”-Romans 6:23 NIV

  1. We have to believe that Jesus Christ died for our sins

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”-Romans 5:8 NIV

  1. In order to be forgiven for our sin, we must believe and declare that Jesus is Lord, because our salvation only comes through faith in Christ.

“But what does it say? “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the message concerning faith that we proclaim: If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.”-Romans 10:8-10 NIV

If you have recognized that you are a sinner and that the penalty for your sin is death.  If you believe that Jesus died for your sins, then it is time to believe and declare that Jesus is Lord.  What that means is simple this.  Wherever you are reading this pray this prayer out loud:

Dear God, I know that my sin has separated me from you.  Thank you that Jesus Christ died in my place.  I ask Jesus to forgive my sin and to come into my life.  Please begin to direct my life.  Thank you for giving me eternal life.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

If you have enjoyed reading these posts, then you might also enjoy reading a book out based on these posts entitled Lessons from Harry Potter available from Amazon in paperback, hardcover and e-Book. Just simply search for Lessons from Harry Potter.

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