21 October 2023

Replay value

Ivan Radford

A figure shows Mario leaping from a pipe.

As a new Super Mario Bros. game arrives in shops, Ivan Radford celebrates the unconditional fresh start that God’s love provides.

‘It’s-a me!’ Those three words will be bouncing round family living rooms from this weekend and all the way through Christmas, as a new Super Mario game jumps on to gift request lists for kids of all ages. Super Mario Bros. Wonder, out now on Nintendo Switch, takes gamers back to the Mushroom Kingdom for another adventure that involves defeating the franchise’s antagonist, Bowser, and teaming up with friends Toad, Luigi, Peach and more.

A lowly plumber attempting to overcome obstacles for the good of a kingdom much bigger than themselves? It’s no wonder the game resonated with people in 1985, when Super Mario Bros. debuted on the Nintendo Entertainment System. Since then, millions of Mario games have been sold worldwide.

Whether it’s the modern, three-dimensional world-exploring attracting newcomers or the retro, side-scrolling format that first caught people’s attention, Mario’s enduring popularity lies in the simple truth at the heart of each game: Mario isn’t perfect, and isn’t always going to get it right first time, but he always gets another opportunity to try. Miss a crucial leap to a moving platform? Fall down a pipe and end up on the wrong side of a Piranha Plant? No matter: just start the level over.

Is there anything more comforting or welcoming than the knowledge that you’re in safe hands? That, no matter what happens, you can still get up and try again? That’s the knowledge we, as Christians, live our days by: we are saved, accepted and forgiven by a Creator who loves us unconditionally and knows us by name.

And yet, whether we’re mistiming a run for the bus or saying something hurtful without considering other people’s feelings, we are still so capable of slipping up on banana skins in our day-to-day lives. We can make mistakes, lose sight of God’s plan, and forget to anchor ourselves in God’s all-encompassing salvation – a love that compels us to love others with the same unconditional warmth.

We can’t replay that dash to the bus stop in real life, but God’s unwavering love is still available to us when we might think it’s game over. God doesn’t just put a gamepad down once we’ve first seen the light: our salvation is an ongoing priority for the Lord.

In 1 Peter 1, we’re reminded: ‘By his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading’ (vv3 and 4 Berean Standard Bible).

Living in hope, no matter what obstacles we see ahead, is what we are called to do – hope in the faith that, if we ask for forgiveness, God in his infinite grace is still working to renew the spirit of our minds and help us put on our new selves (see Ephesians 4:22–24). As the Lord works through us for the good of his Kingdom, we never need to fear: even in dark times, even though we’re a work in progress, right next to us helping us to level up for his glory? It’s-a he! And, as John Gowans’s song ‘Knowing My Failings, Knowing My Fears’ (SASB 715) beautifully puts it, we can still ask Jesus to recall and re-ordain us, to use us again.

Reflect and respond

  • Read Isaiah 43:18 and 19. Are you still holding on to old things rather than living in the new thing God is doing?
  • Do you reflect God’s unconditional forgiveness to others?
  • Read the words of song 509 in the Army songbook. Take that joy with you through the week.

Written by

A photo of Ivan Radford.

Ivan Radford

Managing Editor

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