As a pastor, over the years I have received different responses from people about the Harry Potter series when they found out I had read them all. And at times I've had questions from parents about whether their children should read them - those questions coming not because of what they knew personally from reading them, but what they had heard.
Well after I finished the last of the Harry Potter series, I'm not sure that as time goes by we might see theologians treating the books and their author much more kindly. For in this book I found words I have always treasured in the most uncommon places.
When Harry ventures back home to where his parents are buried, he comes across the gravestone of his mentor Dumbledore's mother and sister. The Mother was killed trying to protect the daughter from herself, and later the daughter died too. On the gravestone were these words.
Where your treasure is, there your hearts will be also.
This of course comes from Christ's words in Matthew "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Matt 6:19-21 (NIV)
Then Harry finds himself at the graves of his parents, who both died trying to protect him from an evil wizard, and the reader sees these words on their monument.
The last enemy to be destroyed is death.
Coming again from Scripture - 24 Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death.
1 Cor 15:24-26 (ESV)
The themes of "the Greater Good", of sacrifice, of selflessness, of laying down your life for your friends run all through this last book. If you cannot see that, it's not that you have read too much fiction.
It's that you have read too little Scripture.
Reading for information isn't enough. You have to read the Bible with a sense of anticipation and wonder, relief and amazement that God - this God - the One and Only God - would sacrifice His One and Only Son - for you. And that through your love for Him, you would lay down your life for your friends - no matter what. You know you are flawed, but that He is able to use you to change lives for eternity. And you have to be convinced in your very soul that your life matters to God - that what you do matters. You have a part in the Big Story of God's reconciling the world to Himself.
If you can see that connection with your own life's walk, then it will be easy to spot it wherever it appears in any variation whether explicitly Christian or not - even in fictional books like the Harry Potter series. God is speaking through His people through many different works - art, books, film, music. A heart tuned to Him will hear Him there.
I'm grateful for J.K. Rowling's work, and the treasures I found in The Deathly Hallows. But I'm immeasurably more grateful to the God who through the sacrifice of His sinless Son, gave me freedom from guilt and shame, a purpose for living, and the hope of eternal life with Him, when death will be destroyed and love will triumph over all.