By Rick Pidcock
End of the Spear tells one of the most powerful stories of redemption and forgiveness that I have ever seen. Set in the early 1950’s, the movie begins with a short monologue on irreconcilable differences and lasting peace.
These differences soon evidence themselves in the lives of the Waodani Indians of Ecuador. Because of their belief that one becomes strong enough to “cross the great Boa” through spearing others, they kill each other at a staggering sixty percent mortality rate. In fact, the average male does not live past thirty years old. Soon, the government of Ecuador plans to purge the land of these tribesmen by killing them all.
Out of their burden for these lost Indians, missionaries Nate Saint, Jim Elliot, and three others begin to strategize how to reach the Waodani. Through an innovative technique thought up by Nate Saint, they begin lowering gifts to the Waodani from an airplane. And finally, when they begin receiving gifts in return, they decide to land and meet the Waodani in person.
At first, they seem to be winning over the trust of the Waodani. But due to the lies of two Indians, the Waodani decide to spear the missionaries just five days later.
End of the Spear then begins to show how true reconciliation is made possible in the gospel.
Perhaps the most shocking reality of this movie is that it is a true story. It would be one thing if a group of believers decided to write a made-up story that shows the power of the gospel. But this story cannot be denied as fact. And yet, as true as the story is, it almost seems laughably impossible.
The only way that such an unlikely reconciliation could have taken place is through the gospel.
- End of the Spear shows the power of the gospel.
Some critics have made fun of the movie’s repetitive attempt to display the Waodani as a group of killer thugs. There are numerous scenes of their spearing. And yet, their passion for blood is a vital part of the story that cannot be denied.
Not only did the Waodani kill each other, but they also killed Nate Saint and the other missionaries. And yet, rather than becoming bitter against the Indians, the missionary wives decided to move to Ecuador in order reach the Indians with the gospel.
Nate Saint’s son Steve also visited the Waodani many times throughout his life. Then at the end of the movie, the Indians ask Steve and his family to live with them. And after Steve initially resists, one of the Indians says, “We are your family.” Just one year later, in 1995, Steve Saint moved his family from Florida to Ecuador to live with the very killers who destroyed his family just forty years prior.
Entertainment Online said, “The movie (turns) Mincayani, a surly and handsome Waodani leader, from killer to saint without making psychological sense of either.”
Quite honestly, I would have to agree with Entertainment Online. The gospel really does not make any psychological sense. It makes no sense that tribes whose entire existence is believed to be for the purpose of killing each other would one day love each other. It makes no sense that foreigner’s whose parents and husbands were killed by those tribes would one day love them. And yet the gospel is powerful enough to do both.
This is very encouraging to my heart as to the power of the gospel in my life. We all have broken relationships. And yet, I doubt that any of our broken relationships can even come close to the brokenness of the relationship between the missionaries and the Waodani. If the gospel is powerful enough to restore their relationship, then surely it can restore anything else.
- End of the Spear shows the patience of the gospel.
One interesting thing to note within the movie is the dates during which the movie takes place. Forty years pass until Steve Saint receives specific reconciliation with the man that killed his father. It is amazing to know that God is not only powerful in His work of redemption, but He is also patient. While we may want everything to work itself out immediately, God is patiently waiting to do His work of reconciliation.
Some believers have expressed deep anger and have even gone to great lengths to proclaim to the world that End of the Spear has a huge gospel problem. But I think that such people have a fundamental misunderstanding of what the nature of the gospel really is.
As the movie begins, there are irreconcilable differences in this world between families, nations, and even more importantly, between us and God. And due to this broken relationship, we are not ready for heaven, just as Nate said of the Waodani. Yet, as the movie explicitly points out, God sent His son to be killed for us, so that we who were killing Him, would one day have eternal, abundant life.
Allison Benedikt of the Chicago Tribune said, “End of the Spear is a production of Every Tribe Entertainment, an independent studio whose mission is to ‘create quality entertainment for a broad audience that inspires hope through truth.’ If this does not set off alarm bells in your head, consider the film’s opening voiceover, which warns that peace will only come when we change our hearts. (In other words, accept Christ as our Lord and Savior.)”
Even though Allison rejects Christ, she saw the message of the gospel loud and clear. The gospel is more than just a few theological facts spoken in the English language that must be believed in order to get saved. The gospel is the hope of reconciliation, both with God and with others. It is reconciliation, not only of our souls, but of our nations, families, social classes, and cultures. And I know that everyone here will be encouraged at the power and patience of the gospel’s work of reconciliation found in End of the Spear.
*Read PluggedInOnline’s review of this movie here.