Spears and Plowshares

Rev. Chip Hammond

The movie was not in theaters for very long, and I didn’t get a chance to see it. I hope to when the DVD is released. But I can’t say my enthusiasm hasn’t been dampened some.

The trailers for The End of the Spear were breath-taking for their cinematographical beauty. And the story – an accurate telling of the murder and heroic martyrdom of Jim Elliot, Nate Saint, and three other missionaries in the jungle of Ecuador – is stirring and inspiring, a fitting tribute to the man who said, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot loose.”

The wind was taken from under the wings of many, however, when it came to light that the part of missionary pilot Nate Saint was played by one Mr. Chad Allen. The angst has been caused by the fact that Mr. Allen lives a life-style that is condemned by God’s Word. Not only lives it. Advocates for it. Vigorously.

There is a great deal of conflicting (mis)information flying around regarding the makers of the movie. Some are alleging that the movie makers, who are professed Christians, knowingly and deliberately hired Mr. Allen with full knowledge of his activities. But over the years, I’ve learned to trust the careful journalism of World Magazine. In a commentary by the Editor in Chief (Feb. 18, 2006), Marvin Olasky reports that Mr. Allen’s lifestyle came to light only after the contract was signed, a contract which righteousness then demanded be honored (Olasky refers to Psalm 15, and Josh. 9:3-19; I might add to see also WCF 22.4).

I was saddened by the revelation of Mr. Allen’s lifestyle, but I was more saddened by the response of some Christians. Saddened because it has been my experience that anything we endeavor to do for the Lord will be tainted by sin, ours or another’s, and we fool ourselves if we think we would do better if we were in charge of the project (children say, “If I had been Adam, I wouldn’t have sinned” – I fear adults believe the same thing, but are just afraid to say it aloud). This is something I realized I had to repent of long ago. I used to be very critical of other Christians, not for their blatant sins, but for their mistakes. “If they had just thought this through a little.” But rocks cast at fellow redeemed sinners seem to be boomerang shaped, and I’m not so quick to throw them any more.

It troubles me most that we don’t seem to have a handle on the gospel, don’t seem to really believe it. We don’t understand the difference between being under law and being under grace (see Jn 1:17, Gal. 5:4). Law and grace “do sweetly comply,” but they are not identical. If they were, the Bible wouldn’t contrast them. If they were, Jesus wouldn’t have had to come – Moses would be sufficient.

There is great continuity between the dispensations of law and grace. There are also striking differences. One of these differences has to do with the “law of contagion.” Under the Old Covenant, when holy things came into contact with defiled things, the holy things were defiled (read Haggai 2:10-14, Num. 19:11-13). Bleeding made one unclean, and so women were unclean every month, and anyone who came in contact with them during that time was rendered unclean (Lev. 15:19). The marriage of Israelite men to foreign women defiled them, and the children were defiled. The only solution to restore sanctity was to divorce the unclean women and send them away with their unclean children (Ezra 10:1-6).

In the coming of Christ, this principle has been turned on its head. Mere contact between holy things and defiled things hasn’t the power any longer to defile holy things. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.

It is still true that the people of God should marry only in the Lord (1 Cor. 7:39). But if one marries before he or she is a Christian, or a Christian foolishly marries an unbeliever, that person is, under the gospel, not permitted to divorce his or her spouse because the spouse is an unbeliever (1 Cor. 7:12-14). This is not a mere change of law – it is a fundamental change of underlying principle. Under Moses, marriage to one outside the covenant defiled the holy party, and the children of the union were defiled. But now in the coming of Christ, the unbelieving spouse is in some sense “sanctified,” or “made holy,” as are the children who come from that union (1 Cor. 7:14).

During Jesus’ earthly ministry, a woman who was plagued by a discharge of blood for twelve years sought to touch Jesus – to touch Jesus! What was she thinking? Didn’t she know that according to the Law she was unclean, and that touching him would make him unclean? But she was sure she would be healed if she touched him, so she did. Was Jesus defiled? No. But she was made holy – healed and cleansed (Mark 5:25-34).

For some reason, we don’t grasp, don’t really believe the power of the gospel. We give lip service to it, but live like it’s a fairy tale when it comes to how it can change people. When Moses walked on Horeb, he had to put the sandals off his feet, for he was standing on holy ground – he must not defile it (Ex. 3:5). But when Peter, James and John were on the mount of transfiguration, no such directive was given, for they were unable to defile the ground – they were in the more intimate presence of the One who could make them clean.

I’m looking forward to seeing The End of the Spear. It is powerful story, a story of men who so believed the gospel that they were willing to make the ultimate sacrifice in order to live it and to bring it to others. These are men to be honored and emulated.

And I pray that through playing the role of Nate Saint, God may begin to speak to the heart of Chad Allen through his conscience (see Rom. 2:15) and, in his good providence, his holy Word. Chad Allen cannot defile the memory of Nate Saint – he hasn’t got the power. But Chad Allen has played the role of one who walked in the footsteps of Jesus. In so doing he has come very near to holy ground – not the mountain of Horeb , which his feet could defile, but the mountain of transfiguration which has the power to make defiled feet clean. And my sincere prayer for Mr. Allen is that in his case it will.