We are only a little over a month away from the highly anticipated remaster of Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, and to ease the anticipation Nintendo dropped a fancy new Amiibo in our laps in the form of this Zelda/Loftwing figure. And if you have managed to avoid the urge to collect at least a few of these lovable toys/figures known as “Amiibos”, you are certainly more disciplined than I am. The purposes of these “Amiibos” (Amiibo? Amiibi? Amoebas? Plural for made-up words can be confusing…) in many games can seem nebulous at best, but this one is certainly going to be different for one key reason that is dividing gamers even as they scrape up the coins necessary to snatch up one of these before they are gone.
While most amiibos interact with the game by adding additional cosmetic features such as new in-game costumes or unlock exclusive items such as new weapons or armor, this particular amiibo serves an entirely different purpose. Without spoiling any critical elements of the game for those who haven’t experienced it, the new Zelda/Loftwing amiibo essentially provides a shortcut ability to “fast-travel” in the game… a quality of life feature that many gamers as well as gaming websites believe should simply be included in the remastered experience rather than exist as an improvement that must be purchased. The reaction to the requirement to pay for this valuable shortcut was… well, we will just call it a “spirited” response.
This divisive figure unlocks more than just a heavily desired (and typically included for free) in-game adjustment… it also provokes a very interesting question. Are these additional attempts to monetize game features a fair example of capitalism, or is this just another case of the infamously over-priced “horse armor” in Elder Scrolls: Oblivion? Are gamers being asked to pay more than what is reasonable for something that would typically be included as an unlockable item after finishing a difficult quest or perhaps an in-game secret that could be found if one was dedicated enough to search for it? These are challenging but fair questions to ask, and they open up some of the more difficult challenges we face in our search for answers in our real-world adventures as well.
I have to start this line of thought with a qualifying question… have you ever READ the books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy? No… I don’t mean just the interesting parts… I mean truly ALL of it. If not, let me just hit the high notes for you… within these texts there are over SIX HUNDRED different rules or “laws” that the Jewish people committed to in their covenant with God as they began their trek into the Promised Land. These laws covered more than just expectations around theology and worship… these laws covered areas of hygiene, food preparation, animal treatment, clothing requirements, building codes… these are simply a MASSIVE amount of very specific rules that the people were responsible for fulfilling in order to meet the criteria of pleasing the Lord in their daily lives. If you thought keeping the Ten Commandments can be complicated, you are in for a real treat with some of these. Don’t believe me? Here are just a few…
Deut. 22:4 “You shall not see your brother’s donkey or his ox fall down along the road, and hide yourself from them; you shall surely help him lift them up again
Deut. 22:8 “When you build a new house, then you shall make a parapet for your roof, that you may not bring guilt of bloodshed on your household if anyone falls from it.
Deut. 22:10 “You shall not plow with an ox and a donkey together.
Deut. 22:11 “You shall not wear a garment of different sorts, such as wool and linen mixed together.
As I am sure you have already surmised, the success rate on these were pretty low. As a matter of fact, breaking God’s rules was pretty much the OTHER consistent theme running throughout all four of these books. Even when Moses was LITERALLY in the act of receiving the original Ten Commandments, the people of Israel were in the act of breaking the VERY FIRST ONE (Exodus 32), as well as many others. They were pretty serious multi-taskers. So let’s recap very quickly… the people wanted to enter into a covenant commitment with the Lord, God provided them with a solution that none of them could go five minutes without violating, and then end result was frustration, disappointment, and consequences. Let’s all say it together now… “There has GOT to be a better way!”
The “Good News” is that there ABSOLUTELY is a better way, but just like our Zelda Amiibo issue, it comes with a cost when we would rather for it to be free. Most of us, if we answer honestly, would prefer to have a positive relationship with our Creator. I mean, at a minimum it beats the alternative. But the reality of such a relationship with a Divine Being and understanding the responsibilities in it can be a tad bit overwhelming. With such a high and misunderstood price of admission, many of us unfortunately forego the opportunity to live life hand-in-hand with our Designer because we have the mistaken impression that there are limitations being placed on our happiness and fulfillment in this short life-span we have been given. We look at our life the way many of us are looking at Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword… it is an experience that some of us are going to engage in and do our best to enjoy, but we are looking at the “developer” and wondering why the BEST part is “hidden” behind a price of admission requirement that we would prefer not to pay for.
Let’s get our fingernails dirty for a minute… at some point almost every one of us, regardless of our beliefs or lack thereof, has cried out wishing God would fix a problem or rescue us from a horrible situation. And unfortunately, the shortcut to an answered prayer does not always appear. As we look back on that painful moment, it can be very easy to resent our Creator for failing to simply allow us to “fast-travel” to a solution that would have prevented the pain or reversed the damage. And unfortunately, many of our fellow travelling companions in life have a bitter taste in their mouth regarding God because they see a disconnect between His “love” for us and His actions on our behalf. Believers who have “followed the rules” may not get what they feel is the “fair” exchange for their service when these prayers go unanswered, and non-believers balk at the perceived “cost of doing business” with the Lord and choose to simply not play the game at all. Disillusionment exists for those who bought the game because they didn’t/couldn’t pay the additional amiibo upcharge, and others purchase neither the game nor the amiibo because the situation seems unfair in the first place. So where do we go from here?
The author of Hebrews had an incredibly daunting task… to explain this “new covenant” to those who were still trying (and failing) to comply with the old rules and laws. And this writer can do a much better job than I can of explaining how this new “fast-travel” process works…
Hebrews 8:7-13 For if that first covenant had been faultless, then no place would have been sought for a second. Because finding fault with them, He says: “Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah— not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they did not continue in My covenant, and I disregarded them, says the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. None of them shall teach his neighbor, and none his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them. For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.” In that He says, “A new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.
The Lord Himself determined that there must be a “better way”, and decided a new solution was in order. But there was still a “cost” associated with this process that HAD to be paid, and we were far too broke to ever pay it. Time for the most expensive “free DLC” of all time…
Hebrews 10:11-13 And every priest stands ministering daily and offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God, from that time waiting till His enemies are made His footstool. For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.
He bought the amiibo for us, at the cost of His own life. The price of admission is not ours to pay, and no amount of following laws or doing charitable works can “earn” the answers to prayers that we seek. The provision and direction of the Lord is not “one tap” of an amiibo away in the form of clasped hands and a quickly muttered prayer… it is a RELATIONSHIP. Our “good deeds” and any other attempts at gaining the Lord’s favor don’t give us a shortcut to anything… these should simply be the outward manifestations of a life that is being lived in harmony with our Creator. If that is too abstract, let’s keep it simple and get back to our “amiibo” analogy one last time.
As a gamer, if I am playing Skyward Sword and I have been given a free amiibo by a generous benefactor to enjoy during my gameplay, I will use it as frequently as the situation calls for it. I will keep it right next to my gamepad to make it simple to “tap” as needed for the desired outcome. But if I choose to play this game portably and don’t bring this figure with me, I can no longer access the benefits of it. My proximity to it is a choice I am making, and it can only benefit me when I choose to actively carry it and use it. But here is the catch… it only serves ONE purpose. This amiibo is a fast-travel option to ONE place… in this particular game it brings the player from wherever you are on the ground to the “sky realm”. And a second tap of the amiibo simply brings me back to the EXACT SAME PLACE on the ground that I was at before I tapped it and ascended to the sky. While this amiibo provides a wonderful fast-travel option to zip between the sky and the ground whenever I choose, it does not simply “beat the game” for me or zap me to any location of my choosing. It doesn’t eliminate ANY enemies, it doesn’t defeat ANY bosses, it doesn’t overflow my wallet with rupees, and it doesn’t magically give me a more powerful sword or a stronger shield. It simply pulls me out of where I am currently and takes me to the sky, where I can disconnect from where I was, regroup, and perhaps pursue a different path than the one I am currently on.
Our relationship with Christ is not a shortcut through LIFE… it is a shortcut to the throne room of GOD. It is a fully purchased “unlockable” that takes us to a place we could NEVER get to on our own, and it can be used as MANY times as we would like. It is not something we can EARN, no matter how many “laws” we keep. And it is not something that works simply because we possess it.. we must actively CHOOSE to “tap” into it and keep it in close proximity to us at all times. But make no mistake… it is not going to supernaturally beat the game for you. The enemies we were facing before are still present once we return to the “ground”… not necessarily because we did something wrong, but because this IS an action-adventure game we are playing. Combat is implied and battles are going to be par for the course.
What is the purpose of a “fast-travel” option that doesn’t solve all of my problems? It means that we can get “above” our battles at any time that we need to and have our Heavenly Father’s undivided attention, guidance, and support. Sometimes He will move the mountain (Mark 11:23), and other times we will still have to walk through the valley of the shadow of death with Him by our side (Psalm 23:4). But His love and availability will never be something our “good deeds” must earn in order to access… we simply have to choose to accept the exceptionally rare and expensive gift we have received and utilize it as many times as we desire. It would be nice if we could simply walk hand in hand with our Creator all day long, but we tried that once in the Garden of Eden and we couldn’t even keep the simple rules that were established there. But He has created a NEW covenant and fully paid the price of admission in advance so we can enjoy His presence here ANY time we choose to as well as enter into the endgame content He is currently building for each of us (John 14:3).
Loving God with all of our heart, mind and soul as well as loving our neighbor as ourselves are still expectations for us in this life (Matthew 22:35-40) … but any time we fall short in those areas we now have a direct line to Him for forgiveness, restoration, and renewal. This “amiibo” benefit wasn’t free… it was more expensive than we can possibly understand. But the price we could never pay has already been paid, and the choice to use it is now ours. This fast travel option may not take us to everywhere we WANT to go either… but it will take us to the ONLY place we need to go. It is not a shortcut around our problems or past our battles, but it takes us to the only place where we can prepare for them and brings us into the presence of the One who has already overcome them.
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