Because we live in an imperfect world, we will inevitably make mistakes and also be hurt by the mistakes of others. But how do we apologize for a mistake that can’t be fixed? How do we forgive someone else for such a mistake? In the first Final Fantasy XIII game, the characters Snow Villiers and Hope Estheim wrestle with these questions. Not only does their journey illustrate our common human struggle with forgiveness and repentance, but the answers they discover also parallel the teachings of Jesus.
At the beginning of Final Fantasy XIII, Hope’s mother, Nora, is killed. Through no fault of their own, Nora, her son, and some other people were sentenced to exile. Snow and his resistance fighters try to rescue them, but soldiers prevent their escape. Some of the exiles, including Nora, volunteer to fight with the rebels. But Nora dies during the battle, despite Snow’s attempts to save her. Hope watches from a distance, horrified. Because Snow accepted Nora’s help, then failed to save her, Hope blames him for his mother’s death. Snow also blames himself.Humans are not naturally capable of correcting our sins or forgiving others of their sins.
Nora’s death becomes the “sin” that Snow doesn’t know how to repent of, and that Hope doesn’t know how to forgive. Instead, they develop natural—though unhealthy—responses to the tragedy. Hope uses hatred to deal with his grief, and Snow chooses avoidance to cope with his failure.
Hope eventually confronts Snow and demands, “What happens when your actions end up ruining someone’s life?”1 As Snow dangles from the edge of a building, Hope stands over him and draws a knife. With hatred spurring him to seek revenge, perhaps Hope believes that seeing Snow’s lifeless body fall to the ground—just as Nora’s did—will bring peace.
Then an explosion throws Hope from the building—much like the explosion that preceded Nora’s death. When Nora died, Snow could not keep her from falling. But this time, without hesitating, Snow releases the building and grabs Hope, letting himself fall with the boy and using his own body to protect Hope. Once they land, despite his injuries, Snow carries the unconscious Hope on his back, determined to get him to safety.
By sacrificing his own body to protect Nora’s son, Snow physically bears the consequences of her death, showing that he is no longer ignoring his mistake. Once Hope regains consciousness, Snow tells him, “[I] didn’t know how to set things straight. So I didn’t….I decided I had to find a way to pay for it first…But, it’s like you said. I was using that as an excuse, so I could run from my own guilt.”1
After their confrontation, Snow realizes that repentance begins by confessing his guilt—even if it can’t change the past—and Hope learns that only forgiveness will heal him. When Snow meets Hope’s father, he bows humbly before the widower and confesses that he couldn’t save his wife. But Hope defends him by telling his father that Snow saved his life.
Humans are not naturally capable of correcting our sins or forgiving others of their sins. But just as Snow carried Hope—the embodiment of his guilt—on his back, so Jesus bore the cross and the sins of the world. Because of Jesus, even the most unfixable mistakes have been paid for to the fullest extent. Through the power of God, we can repent and find true redemption; we can be hurt yet offer true forgiveness.
God has taken care of the impossible, and he gives us the grace to make the choice: the choice to confess, like Snow, and to begin “performing deeds in keeping with [our] repentance” (Acts 26:21, ESV) as well as the choice to forgive, like Hope, and to “[keep] no record of wrongs” (1 Corinthians 13:5, NIV).