A Change of Heart
When we look around us at popular media, the trope of a character undergoing “a change of heart” crops up time and again. A change of heart occurs when a character exchanges negative actions for positive ones. Charles Dickens’ character Ebenezer Scrooge from A Christmas Carol Is the most famous manifestation of this trope. Initially, Mr. Scrooge is a penny-pinching miser of a man. After his fateful visitors, he becomes a person who is willing to give of himself for others. This trope makes us feel good. It makes us think that anyone is truly capable of a genuine change of heart.
In the popular JRPG Persona 5, this trope comes about once more. The protagonists change the hearts of numerous evil nanpeople. The playable character Joker leads the group, called the “Phantom Thieves of Heart,” comprised of teenage outcasts from stereotypical high school cliques such as the jocks or emos. The group grows slowly throughout the game, topping out at eight individuals: Joker, Makoto, Ann, Yasuke, Haru, Ryuji, Morgana, and Futaba.
The protagonists dedicate themselves to forcing a change of heart in evil individuals who are known to cause a lot of problems. The populace at large may not know of their deeds, so these people get away with their crimes. The protagonists have found quite a few of their targets by talking to victims of the evil person or witnessing the deeds of that person first hand. Once a target is found, the Phantom Thieves of Heart choose their targets through a unanimous vote. The Phantom Thieves of Heart force this change of heart by first infiltrating the evil person’s Palace.
Hunting for Treasures
The Palace is a manifestation of how the guilty party views their world. For example, the first Palace infiltrated by our protagonists resides at the same place as Shujin Academy, the school Joker attends. This Palace belongs to Kamoshida, a high school volleyball coach who is guilty of physically and sexually abusing athletes. This Palace manifests as a castle over which Kamoshida reigns. This shows that he views himself as the de facto ruler of the high school.
The treasure the protagonists steal is the physical form of that person’s most basal desires. Kamoshida’s treasure is an Olympic medal for volleyball that he had won earlier in his life. When the protagonists steal the treasure and bring it into the real world, that person then loses their evil desires. These people then become increasingly guilty to the point of confessing their crimes and having a complete change in their attitude for the better.
Beginning the Game
At the beginning of the story, Joker attempts to prevent what appears to be a sexual assault. During this rescue, he strikes the man making the attack. This man turns out to be a compelling and influential politician in the Japanese government, and he accuses Joker of hitting him out of the blue for no good reason. Due to his power and influence, the woman who was being assaulted corroborates the story of the corrupt politician. This leads to Joker’s arrest and expulsion from his high school.
Joker then moves in with a family friend in Tokyo, Japan, for a one-year probationary period. During this time, he also changes schools to Shujin Academy. Here, he meets Ryuji, and the two become fast friends. Joker soon realizes his ability to use Personas, which are parts of the user’s psyche that take on physical form. Morgana, who has the appearance of an ordinary house cat, finds Joker and Ryuji, and the trio forms the fledgling “Phantom Thieves of Heart.”
Making of the “Phantom Thieves”
The new recruits for the “Phantom Thieves of Heart” join while infiltrating the Palace of an individual who harmed them. For example, Ann joins the thieves during their infiltration of Kamoshida’s Palace, a man who engages in a type of quid pro quo harassment so that Ann’s best friend could be on the ladies’ volleyball team.
Besides Kamoshida, The Phantom Thieves of Heart also impact Madarame and Kaneshiro. Madarame is a famous artist who secretly plagiarizes the work of his students, while Kaneshiro is a mob boss who extorts money from the populace of Tokyo. Madarame’s treasure is a painting done by Yusuke’s mother, Sayuri, who was also a student of Madarame. Madarame stole this painting after Sayuri died in front of him and changed it in order to make the painting more valuable. Kaneshiro’s treasure is a golden case filled with money that has his face on it. Kaneshiro is not a typically attractive man, and built up his empire as a way to compensate for his perceived shortcomings. The golden case may be representative of his empire, while the money inside either points to Kaneshiro’s feelings of worthlessness, or to him trying to artificially inflate his ego by putting himself on the currency.
After the fight against the ruler of the Palace, the thieves spare the killing blow on the manifestation as killing the manifestation could have disastrous implications in the real world. Brain death or physical death could happen to the Palace’s owner if their psyche dies in the Palace. Instead, in all cases, the guilty parties undergo a complete change of heart after The Phantom Thieves of Heart complete their mission and steal the treasure. These formally-evil parties then confess their sins and work to fix the wrongs they have caused soon after the protagonists perform their work.
Enter the Holy Spirit
“And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” 2 Corinthians 3:18
One of the core tenets of Christianity is the reception of the Holy Spirit after the salvation of the Christian. The Holy Spirit was given to us by God during Pentecost, as shown in Acts 2. The Holy Spirit, once given to the Christian, begins transformative work in that person, helping them to overcome the sins of their past. Part of this includes the Holy Spirit pushing said person to experience a change of heart. All Christians, thus, are convicted in some part to become better people and continue to strive towards the image of perfection we have in Jesus.
Similar to how the Phantom Thieves of Heart infiltrate a person’s most profound personal views and desires, the Holy Spirit also pushes to the core of a person. The Holy Spirit then begins changing the person from the inside out. Similar to the game Persona 5, the Holy Spirit does not kill the person who accepts the Spirit inside. 2nd Corinthians 5:17 illustrates this point by saying, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” The Holy Spirit causes a rebirth of sorts and changes the person without destroying who they are. The person who is saved can thus have a life that is new while giving up the life that was entrenched in sin.
Not so Fast
Unfortunately, unlike in Persona 5, these changes do not happen overnight for most Christians. Sometimes the changes in our hearts occur over numerous small steps in the right direction. Christians actively bring about small stages of transformation due to opportunities to grow occurring around us every day. It is necessary for the one being transformed, and those around the young Christian, to exercise patience during this process.
A massive, distinct, and instantaneous transformation would be amazing, but it is not easy to change one’s character. As a person changes, they will make mistakes by reverting back to old ways of thinking and old actions. Repeated, intentional actions towards change are absolutely necessary for someone to experience a real change of heart.
This event may seem scary to folks both outside and inside of Christianity. After all, it is not necessarily in our nature to reveal our deepest darkest secrets to anybody, let alone a supreme deity! However, I believe that this is liberating. Being able to confess your wrongs and strive to better yourself and make up for your past with the help of Jesus makes life better. The weight of the guilt you harbor becomes lifted, and you no longer need to feel sorrow for the ills and wrongs you have committed in the past.
Fruits of the Spirit
The Holy Spirit is fantastic at helping you become transformed into the likeness of Christ. The small steps will compound, and your transformation will progress steadily. Before you know it, you are genuinely acting more and more like Christ in your life. A useful marker of this is the growth of the “Fruits of the Spirit,” as told in Galatians 5: 22-23 by the Apostle Paul.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things, there is no law.” Galatians 5: 22-23
I urge you, my brothers and sisters, to listen to the musings of the Holy Spirit. Let it lead you into a genuine change of heart so that you may become more like Jesus. By doing this, you can make significant improvements to your own life and well-being and also become a person that can help others when they need it. Nobody is unable to be redeemed, and even the hardest of hearts can be transformed by our God.