We’re nothing like God. Not only do we have limited powers, we sometimes are driven to become the Devil himself.
– Chapel the Evergreen,, Episode 23: Paradise
Nicholas D. Wolfwood has long been a fan favorite, and why not? He’s possibly the coolest character in Trigun, a series long popular in the U.S.; he’s a gun-toting priest; and the cross he carries is both “full of mercy” and full of weapons. But more than that, I think people connect with his humanity – he is frail, violent, and has a foul mouth. Through it all, though, he tries to do what is right.
Note: The rest of the post is full of spoilers.
The quote above is one of my favorites from the series – it’s said by Chapel the Evergreen to Wolfwood, as he is raising the child. Setting the first half of the second sentence aside, I want to focus on his idea that we are separate from God because “we sometimes are driven to become the Devil himself.” Humanity is capable of awful, dreadful things – we don’t have to turn any further than the first page of a newspaper to see that this statement is true. Even “normal” people can become twisted – I’m often reminded of how Adolf Hitler gathered widespread support from an impoverished, angry German population to rise to power, while using hate rhetoric and mad methods.
But I think Wolfwood isn’t just referring to crimes as vile as genocide. He frequently shows his frustration at an inability to live up to Vash’s non-killing lifestyle, demonstrating the guilt he has for taking others’ lives, even while doing it for good purposes. It’s in these smaller moments, the ones in which “good” and “bad” aren’t so clear, in which we see the Devil. The Bible portrays Lucifer as cunning and subtle – small sin can build and build, snowballing until it becomes out of control.
As Trigun barrels toward it’s conclusion, Wolfwood is weighed down more and more by his various sins, until he ultimately makes a decision of non-violence and sacrifice. As Wolfwood bows down at a chapel in his final earthly actions, he is at peace. I don’t think this peace comes from merely one decision (in the end, the mentor he spared was killed anyway). Instead, I believe he feels peace because he’s undergone a transformation. He’s accepted that his way wasn’t the right way. He decided to emulate Vash, and in doing so, acted like Christ. With Wolfwood’s religious background, he no doubt understood the similarities between Vash and Christ, and in submitting to Vash’s sacrificial ways, he also submitted to Christ. His mouth doesn’t purposely ask for forgiveness (though he bandies around the topic), but his actions demonstrate grace and the acceptance of a better way.
The Apostle Paul, addressing a congregation in Rome, wrote, “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). This verse is often quoted to show the miserable condition we’re born in. But it’s incomplete without accompanying verse 24:
and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.
Wolfwood experienced the grace of God just before his death. The sacrifice of Christ maybe became real to him for the first time, as he placed himself in the position that Vash, the Christ-figure, had done so many times before. And in doing so, he let all of himself go and let all of God complete him, filling a sinful heart with grace. Wolfwood isn’t dead at all – for the first time, he is alive.