Faithless is he that says farewell when the road darkens. [J. R. R. Tolkien]
I am definitely not qualified to write about The Lord of the Rings. I have never watched one of the movies from beginning to end. Truth be told, I’ve only watched the first hour of The Fellowship of the Ring. When I was younger, the imagery of the orcs at the beginning scared me off from ever watching the entire movie, so the only part I could watch was the beautiful rolling hills of the Shire. However, during a retreat recently, we watched The Fellowship of the Ring as my pastor explained how the entire world reflected a Biblical perspective, and the ring represented sin. So despite my incompetency and lack of knowledge, I will try my best to relate the consequences of the ring to sin, as Tolkien does a brilliant job of reminding us that sin must be treated with the proper amount of fear and respect.
Sin cannot be explained away by weakness. We often believe that we can overcome our sin by ourselves if we have enough willpower, but that is never the case. Billy Graham says, “Don’t think of Satan as a harmless cartoon character with a red suit and a pitchfork. He is very clever and powerful, and his unchanging purpose is to defeat God’s plans at every turn – including His plans for your life.” Satan is not stupid enough to show up as a clearly evil force, but rather, shows up as something enticing and something desirable. Badness is only spoiled goodness [C.S. Lewis].
Sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it [Genesis 4:7]. Sin is crouching like a lion, waiting to pounce on the weakest link, and thus also disrupting the entire herd. We are weakest when we don’t even recognize sin’s effect on us; like the Ring and the ring-wearer, sin owns us, causing us to degrade.
The degradation of our lives because of sin is very apparent in Gollum. Although he’s lived for a very long time because of the Ring, Gollum is completely isolated and in a constant state of paranoia. In describing the Ring, he says, “it came to me, my love, my precious,” thereby personifying the Ring as a force with an inexplicable hold and will of its own. When the Ring is worn, or when we’re not careful, the Ring and sin overtakes us, and it will decide for us what to do. Because it has a will of its own, the Ring/evil can betray us, such as when the Ring leaves Isildur, even when he thinks it’s working for him.
Bilbo can be seen as a less-extreme version of Gollum, as he hasn’t held onto the Ring for quite as long, though the effects of the Ring are just as clear. He is also alienated from others, and even himself. Although he intends to give the Ring to Frodo, he starts justifying to himself that he should keep it, simply by the reason of “why shouldn’t I keep it?” He still want s to hold on, onto his bad, old habits. That is why we need someone like Gandalf to step in and help us. We all need a Gandalf in our lives. The Ring even caused Bilbo to mistrust Gandalf, thinking he was going to rob him, despite Gandalf having a long history of saving Bilbo, thus reflecting the divisive power of sin in our relationships. Satan is the divider, he seeks to prevent us from meeting with each other because we are weak when we’re alone. Although Bilbo has unnatural life and youth because of the Ring, much like how sin may gave us immediate or superficial benefits, he never feels at rest or joy.
Frodo and Gandalf’s interaction, in contrast, teaches us that we need a respectful distance from the Ring. Gandalf dares not take it or even touch it, knowing what will happen to him if he does, prompting him to shout, “Don’t tempt me!” Why should we ever subject ourselves to temptation, when we struggle so much already without placing ourselves in direct temptation? We shouldn’t look at the Ring or sin legalistically – there is wisdom behind the “do not.” The Ring, sin, is never a gift, which is why Gandalf continuously refuses the ring when Frodo offers it to him.
The inscription of the Ring is “One ring to rule them all, one ring to find them, One ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them.” During the meeting of the fellowship, Boromir says, “The ring answers to Sauron alone; it has no other master.” Sin, though it can divide, also has the power to unite people in darkness. In the process of fighting the Ring/sin, we can feel self-righteous, like Boromir, making the pursuit toxic – sin can even twist good will. Frodo is the only one who can take the ring because hobbits are humble – sin has a slower effect on us when we’re humble.
So how do we counteract sin then? We cannot be idle – when David was idle, he sinned with Bathsheba. We must pray for each other, in all occasions. Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin [Hebrews 3:12-13]. We’re in fellowship with other people to protect each other from sin.
The Fellowship of the Ring‘s ending of the world becoming the age of man creates moral ambiguity, as there are no more orcs, therefore making it difficult to identify concretely who the enemy is. The battle lines are not clear in terms of our own sin, because the battle is inside our hearts. We must be diligent and equip ourselves with the whole armor of God. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm [Ephesians 6:11-13].
Darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines, it will shine out the clearer. [J. R. R. Tolkien]
Photo Credit: http://sites.psu.edu/moviesgalore/2015/04/03/one-ring-to-rule-them-all/