In the world of Harry Potter, there are words and phrases that bring about a specific action when said properly with wand in hand. Expelliarmus is one of these “spells”. It is used to disarm one’s opponent by expelling their wand from their hand, and Harry uses it to deflect a curse Voldemort fires at him during a battle. Again, the trick for these spells to work is that they must be uttered properly (with the right emphasis, emotion, and in the proper language) and with wand in hand. Only then will the desired result is brought about.
This is often how many Christians treat the Bible. I have heard sermons on the “power of sound words” which advocated quoting a King James translation of a verse verbatim as having more effect on bringing conviction about in the hearer than if one were to communicate the same truth through a summation of the verse or verses being addressed. It’s as if simply quoting a specific translation of a verse somehow brings about a desired result.
I also ran across this same misconception as I was reviewing some Sunday School material the other week in preparation for teaching a 3rd grade boys Life Group. The text was Luke 4 and the lesson was on how to deal with temptation. The material was well intentioned and aimed to teach the children that we want to deal with temptation the same way Jesus did. Imitating Jesus is the goal of discipleship and there is nothing wrong with this aim. The problem was in how the material taught Jesus used Scripture. The material suggested that when we are tempted, all we need to do is merely quote some portion of Scripture that is relevant to our situation and Satan has to run away. It’s as if quoting a memory verse is the biblical equivalent of leveling our wands at Satan and yelling. “Expelliarmus!”
If you have this mentality then brace yourself for your spell will rebound back in your face. As Luke 4 shows, Satan can quote Scripture right back at you. It seems many people imagine Jesus, standing tall, nose to nose with the Devil, unaffected by Satan’s pathetic attempts to get Him to fall, while Jesus heroically fires off Scripture at the Devil. Yet Jesus was weak enough to where he needed to be ministered to by the angels once Satan left. (Matt. 4:11) We often forget that these were real temptations for our LORD, and the portions of God’s Word that Jesus quoted to Satan were not quoted as some magic spell that Satan had to back down from; rather they were quoted in faith that they were true. Jesus believed the things He was reciting. Satan tempted the hungering Jesus to turn stone to bread thus killing two birds with one stone (no pun originally intended): 1. providing verification that Jesus was in fact the Son of God, and 2. having food to eat as Jesus had been on a 40 day fast. Jesus reminded Satan, and Himself, of what faith was as well as the truth that physical bread is not the only type of sustenance in the world. There is as much strength that is gained on our part by hearing the truth as is lost on the part of the tempter – if we recognize it as the truth it is.
The world of Harry Potter is very entertaining and many Biblical truths can be seen throughout the story; but when it comes to dealing with temptation, we had better leave our wands in our coat pockets.