This is an article I did not want to write. I had hoped these concerns would be adequately addressed by others, and that I wouldn’t have to say anything publicly. In light of pressing writing commitments, I felt I did not have the time to do this, nor do I enjoy controversy. But now I feel like I must speak up. This will be lengthy, because what has happened is so far-reaching and involves so many critical issues. Also, many biblical teachings need to be cited to offer us guidance.
I have spent hours on the phone in the last week with End of the Spear producers Mart Green and Steve Saint. I’ve also spent hours on the phone and exchanging emails with a pastor who has written a lengthy critique and called upon other pastors to express their opposition to the End of the Spear, and to Every Tribe Entertainment.
The issue centers on the fact that Chad Allen, who plays Nate Saint in the movie, is a homosexual, and has also spoken out as a homosexual activist. This is true. Mart and Steve say, and I believe them, that they did not know this when they offered him the part, and had they known they certainly would not have done so.
I’ve spent over six hours talking with the parties involved in the controversy, including a two hour conference call Thursday January 26, 2006, with Mart Green and the pastor, as well as another pastor. We were seeking to find some common ground and reconciliation. Many more hours have been spent since that conversation, exchanging input through emails.
There are certainly some issues here that Christians are free to disagree about. I have pointed out concerns to those on both sides. There are sincere brothers and sisters who have strong feelings that land all over the map on this episode. We need to seek our common ground as those who love Christ and His Word, and who seek to fulfill the Great Commission, even as we use different means to do so. Scripture can be cited in different ways to defend different actions.
Galatians 6:10 is a good guide for our interaction in these matters: “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.”
My main reason for writing this relates to the issue of slander and false witness, and the Christian community’s participation in these matters, which I consider to be wrong, dishonoring to Christ and nonnegotiable. However, before I address that, I need to make clear that I sympathize with some of the concerns about the effect of Chad Allen’s part in the movie, even though I understand and believe my brothers with ETE as to what happened and why. (Before reading further, you may wish to read the statements of Mart Green and Steve Saint concerning this.)
Churches, Every Tribe Entertainment and Chad Allen
Regarding the End of the Spear producers, specifically the ones I’ve come to know, Steve Saint and Mart Green, I greatly sympathize with what they’ve gone through. Here they set out to tell this great story of the five missionaries and their wives, including Steve’s mom and dad, and the Waodani people that Steve and his family have loved so much that they went to live with them for several years. Mart felt God’s calling to tell this great story that had such an impact on his life and mine and so many others. And then, one day...
Mart and Steve were devastated when they found out about Chad Allen. So of all people they should understand the devastation felt by the Christian community upon hearing that the man playing Nate Saint and the adult Steve Saint, is a homosexual activist.
When I said this to Mart Green he completely agreed. So when Christians hear about this it would be good to emphasize that Mart and Steve and their families went through greater devastation upon hearing it than anyone. And unlike most of us, who move on to other things, they have had to live with it, and will continue to. (As if this weren’t enough, they and their families are now having to live with slander and false accusations, which I will be getting to.)
It took them time to process it. And naturally it will take many in the Christian community time as well. My main concern is to do what we can to be sure the information we are processing is actually true, not false. Hence my posting of the answers to the questions by Steve and Mart, as well as my comments here.
I’ve told Mart that though I don’t know the logistics of how to do it, I believe Every Tribe should try to do what they reasonably can, by homework and other means, to avoid something like this happening in the future. I can accept that our sovereign God used the fact that they didn’t know this until after they offered the part, to accomplish His purpose. However, that doesn’t mean God doesn’t want us to use our wisdom next time around to try to avoid some problems we’ve already encountered—even if this time God used those problems for His glory. I believe ETE will exercise such wisdom.
My opinion, which I’ve shared with Mart, is that if ETE wants the evangelical community to be their core audience, they will need to do what they can to avoid this kind of controversy. I’m confident they know that. But this is much easier said than done, isn’t it? They can’t make absolute guarantees—even we in churches and ministries can hire staff and find out later it was a very poor choice, even though we thought we took reasonable steps. And when working with nonchristians in Hollywood...clearly many people will have moral problems. It comes with the territory!
But still, they can try their best to make wise choices, based on information, interaction, counsel, Scripture and prayer. Their particular hiring criteria might be different from yours or mine, and we are not their judges. We aren’t movie-makers, so we shouldn’t imagine it is easy to be one. But God does call all of us to steward our lives and ministries and businesses with wisdom.
A pastor friend who saw the movie believes that ETE should have been upfront with the evangelical community before the movie came out, and before he endorsed it from the pulpit. I understand. Being informed is usually a good thing.
From the viewpoint of the people at ETE I also understand their dilemma. Do you call a press conference to talk about the immoral choices and world view of one of your actors? What message does that send to homosexuals and those who consider the homosexual lifestyle acceptable—that this is an in-house movie for Christians, not for the world? Of course, the homosexual lifestyle is wrong. That’s why we want to reach them with the redemptive message of Christ—which is what the movie is about.
End of the Spear would have had far more publicity had there been a press release. It would have kept some Christians from the movie, though it could be argued “so what, that would be their choice.” But it also would have an effect on those who did choose to see the movie after hearing the news. Most would probably not see Nate Saint and Steve Saint, they would see the actor. He would have eclipsed the story and become the story, instead of the story being the story.
Instead of a press release, should ETE send an email to pastors? One thing we should know by now is that the only difference between that kind of email and a press release is that the email gets forwarded to more people, and with an attached commentary.
What about telling pastors and others at the screenings? It has been argued that ETE should have done that, regardless of the consequences to Chad Allen, the movie, or what it might do to Christians watching the film. After all, who are we to try to control people’s reactions by withholding information?
Some believe that ETE took advantage of the Christian community’s ignorance, not letting pastors and Christians decide for themselves. Of course, it could be asked of pastors whether they share all information with their churches, and whether in fact they should. What do you share and when do you share it? The answer isn’t always easy.
Another perspective is that by not focusing on Chad Allen as a person, ETE let Christians see the film and make their own judgment on it as a story, rather than passing judgment in advance. Frankly I’m glad I didn’t know the first time I saw it, just as I’m glad I didn’t know the actor playing Eric Liddell in Chariots of Fire was a practicing homosexual.
And yet, even since I’ve known, Chariots of Fire has still had a powerful effect on me. I see Eric Liddell, not the actor. There are some Harrison Ford movies I really like. But, it is widely known that Harrison Ford left his wife for a younger woman. I can only enjoy his movies by realizing the script and the story is not about the actor. The person I see in the movies is the character Jack Ryan, a man of principle devoted to his wife and family. In The End of the Spear I think of Nate Saint, not Chad Allen.
This doesn’t apply to the man bringing sermons on Sunday mornings in a church. His personal life very much matters, and his words lose all credibility if he has no credibility. And yet, even then, Paul says in Philippians that even when the gospel is preached with bad motives, he rejoices that it is preached. But is what we should not tolerate in our churches different in an arena such as movie-making in which we can and must interact with our culture?
By the way, our failure as evangelicals to encourage our dedicated young people to be missionaries in every part of society, including acting and most other arts, has come back to bite us. As someone has said, Kirk Cameron can’t play every part in every movie. There are many faithful believers besides Kirk who are actors, of course, and I know several of them, but there are far fewer than there should be, and who is to blame for that?
Perhaps if ETE had it to do over again they would find some way to release this information for the prior evaluation of the Christian community. I don’t know. This is certainly a worthy notion in theory, though the way we Christians tend to respond to these situations suggests it would have gotten very ugly. On the other hand, it’s hard to imagine it getting uglier than it has now.
I know that Steve and Mart were both very concerned for Chad Allen, who they desire to come to know Jesus. (Which would of course require repentance, as it does for all of us.) They feared the message that a public announcement would send to him, and how he would be treated by the Christian community, and how that would affect him and others.
What Mart told me ETE did do, before the film was released, is go to fifty Christian leaders who had endorsed the film. They told them about Chad Allen, listened to their input and gave them opportunity to withdraw their endorsements. I believe that none of them did so.
ETE may have regarded this as a wise compromise between telling no one and telling everyone. Others think it was not wise. I honestly don’t know what would have been best, as I see the arguments both directions.
But I do know from my own experience, as I have agonized over controversial decisions, that it is always much easier for those not in the situation to look back and say “You should have done this, not that.” Of course, had this been done instead of that, many of the same people would be saying, “That was wrong; you should have done that, not this.”
Romans 12 comes to mind here:
The man who eats everything must not look down on him who does not, and the man who does not eat everything must not condemn the man who does, for God has accepted him. Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.
One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. He who regards one day as special, does so to the Lord. He who eats meat, eats to the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who abstains, does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God.
.....You, then, why do you judge your brother? Or why do you look down on your brother? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat...each of us will give an account of himself to God.
Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s way.
We must realize that while we are all to walk with Him, seek His face and seek to honor His Word, God does not call all of us to make exactly the same decisions. We are to exercise understanding toward our brothers who believe God has directed them to another course of action. After all, they are His servants, not ours.
I have come to know Steve and Ginny Saint. I have talked with them, prayed with them and seen the clear fruit of the Spirit in their lives. Nanci and I have witnessed their servant-hearted humility and love for Christ. What kind of man is Steve Saint? The pastor writes publicly of Steve, “We talked on the phone yesterday for almost an hour. I apologized and asked for his forgiveness and he said ‘You were forgiven before you asked.’“
I have heard a few people suggest that End of the Spear decisions have been primarily motivated by money. I believe that is false. Mart Green is not a self-promoter seeking to take advantage of the Christian public. He spends time daily in God’s Word and prayer, and fasts for long periods, seeking God. He is not a nominal believer ruled by the financial bottom line. On the contrary, he was instrumental in closing the Hobby Lobby stores on Sunday company-wide, even though they had sales on Sundays in excess of 100 million dollars. Hobby Lobby has a foundation which has generously assisted countless Christian ministries. (By the way, Mart did not tell me this himself—which says something, I think.)
What will ETE do in the future? That’s not for me to say. I do know Mart Green is not only a committed believer but a savvy businessman and an intelligent guy. I’m confident he recognizes that, even aside from the other issues, it makes no sense to hire an actor who is known for a particular cause or political persuasion so that people see an activist, not the role being played. (Remember he didn’t know this about Chad Allen when he offered him the part.) This applies to homosexual activists and abortion activists. But not just to them. It might apply to some Christians, and to prominent conservatives (many of whom are not Christians).
As a result of the Chad Allen episode, some people will forever stand against Every Tribe Entertainment. I am part of what I hope is a majority who will not condemn them for the past in which we recognize mitigating factors (they didn’t know, and they sought God and counsel and tried to do the best they could under the circumstances). Naturally, pastors will watch ETE’s future projects and determine whether or not they can say to their churches, “Here’s a movie we’re 100% behind, and while there can always be public scandals in any arena, we have no particular reason to EXPECT them here.”
Having said all this, I will now address my main concern, which is false accusations. I hope I’ve make clear that I am not a mindless and undiscerning defender of ETE or Mart Green or Steve Saint. I do understand people’s concerns. I am not suggesting Christians shouldn’t express those concerns and disappointments or ask questions of the producers of the film. Go ahead and do so, but PLEASE do it in a biblical and Christ-honoring manner. And please listen to their answers, not to falsehoods about what they were said to have done and said.
Do not dismiss them as compromisers. Do not question their relationship with God, their belief in the Scriptures, or their moral integrity. And do not believe the false reports about them now flying widely throughout the Christian community. And furthermore, please do your best to help correct these rampant and slanderous accusations.
The Problem of False Witness and Slander
We can and will disagree in the Christian community, but we should speak the truth in love (Eph. 4:15). My concern is the portion of that public critique that was not based on truth and did not reflect love.
Unfortunately—and I do not question his motives, as I’ve told him personally—he believed and repeated, in his online publication, charges against these men without going to them personally. They were given no opportunity to respond to the accusations before they were published and widely circulated.
This is a violation of Scripture. Matthew 18 says, “If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over.” The passage goes on to make clear that the next step is to come with a few brothers, making two or three total, so it is still private. Then we are to take nothing public unless our brothers are clearly, as determined by more than just ourselves, both guilty and unrepentant.
Mart Green and Steve Saint, and a few others, have been accused of sinning against the Christian community. Over 100 pastors joined with the article’s writer to call on them to repent. Yet none of those pastors, as far as I know—and certainly not the one who wrote the article—went to those men to “go and show him his fault, just between the two of you.”
Now, have I ever violated Matthew 18? Yes, I have. I am not proud of it. I am ashamed. I consider it something very serious and repugnant to God. I have been fortunate that my failures in this arena, as far as I know, have not been in public statements but in private ones. My sin was just as bad, but the effects were not as widespread.
So I am not saying this pastor did something I’ve never done. Looking back, I have probably just been fortunate not to have legs given to some of my assumptions and comments about others. Therefore, the amount of damage was less.
But this article and links to it were forwarded and printed and distributed by countless people, so that the falsehoods in the article spread like wild fire. The pastor realizes this, I believe. He has apologized and asked forgiveness of Mart Green and Steve Saint, both of whom were very gracious in granting forgiveness (though both of them wish he would go deeper and wider in his expressions of repentance). I applaud him for the steps he has taken, including posting a retraction saying Mart and Steve should not be viewed as enemies, and that he believes them to be sincere brothers, despite his differences with them.
(I need to interrupt myself with a clarification to avoid confusion. This doesn’t mean every time you disagree with a book you have to call John Piper or Max Lucado or Rick Warren. People often disagree with my books and they certainly don’t have to come to me before they tell their class “you know, I think Randy’s wrong here.” After all, they have my statement written by me right in front of them. But if they believe I have SINNED, and plan to publicly build a case for my having sinned, THEN they need to come to me first, as I would need to go to them. Anyone is free in the public forum to take what I have written or what the pastor or Mart or Steve have written, as long as it’s in context, and say “I disagree and here’s why.”)
The failure to go to Mart Green and Steve Saint—though I do not believe it was done with malicious intent—resulted in false accusations being widely disseminated through his blog article. The article then was widely circulated (we received it from a number of different people) and has been the source of countless letters of protest, heated emails, and boycotts of the movie. There have been vicious things said about the families and to them. And the most inflammatory and shocking part of the article is the part that contains very serious falsehoods.
Some of the opinions posted by readers on his blog are constructive, insightful and reasonable. Others, in my opinion, are hostile, irrational and in a few cases, hateful. Much of this was triggered by the misinformation posted in the original blog, even though now the known falsehood, I believe, has been removed. (And for that I am very grateful.)
I do not want to engage in a battle with this pastor or his blog. I have gotten to know him this last week, and though we disagree on various issues we agree on the core doctrines of our faith, and we love Jesus. He is my brother, and I appreciate him. This is not about fighting my brother. It is about defending my brothers who are under attack.
The blog’s most serious accusations (a few of which are raised in the following Q & A with Mart Green and Steve Saint), included in his article “Nate Saint Played by Gay Activist in End of the Spear” were based upon the claims of a homosexual activist magazine.
This magazine, The Advocate, likely spinning the story for its own self-interest, claimed Chad Allen said that the End of the Spear producers saw Allen’s feature article in The Advocate and that is what persuaded them to hire him. It maintains that Steve Saint said The Advocate article about Chad (most of which has no substance and is just about being a homosexual), said that what Chad talked about were the things Steve has fought for his whole life.
This claim was assumed to be true in the critique that has made its way throughout the Christian community, and has been the basis for countless other blogs, emails and commentaries.
But Matthew 18 reiterates the Old Testament principle that “every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.”
To rely on a single source, without bothering to get confirmation by talking to the parties involved, is not even considered good journalism in the secular realm. Shouldn’t our standards be higher? (And isn’t there irony in an evangelical pastor accepting without question the claims—claims outrageous on their face—of a homosexual magazine?)
(Keep in mind that I have shared these concerns directly with the pastor, and some of them he agrees with. He has said, in a letter he sent me that has been or will be published on his blog, that some of what he did was wrong and he seeks to do what he can to correct the unintended falsehoods. So what I am doing here is assisting in that correction we both want to see happen. And I am truly sorry for any embarrassment this could cause him. In my first draft I didn’t even mention him by name, but since his name is attached to virtually every other story surrounding this issue—most of them favorable—it seemed a fruitless attempt. Special note: Several months later I have again removed his name from this article.)
Back to the story. The article and its claims were then passed on to the Christian community, by Christians who assumed they were true. Indeed, The Advocate’s statements were not only quoted in the blog, they were directly affirmed in the article to “actually” be true. The word “actually” was used at least twice in reference to these actions which in fact did NOT happen. Again, this was emphatically stated without even asking Mart Green and Steve Saint.
Having talked at length with the pastor, I believe he was sincere and did not intend to bear false witness or to commit slander against these men. Unfortunately, that is what happened.
He has promised to not only post corrections on his website, but to email those corrections to as many people as he can. I believe him.
The fact remains, however, that thousands (and we can’t know how many thousands) of Christians and pastors and churches will never be reached by the corrective statement. Their false beliefs will not be corrected. Many emails, letters, church announcements, paragraphs in bulletins, statements from the pulpit and private conversations will simply never be corrected.
Gossip and Misinformation in the Church
Gossip and misinformation flow unceasingly in the Christian community. But one day, in Heaven, they will be burned to ashes by the consuming holiness of God.
To cite one of many examples of our Christian gullibility, the FCC still receives letters and phone calls from Christians who are hearing for the first time the “Christian lie” circulating since 1975, that atheist Madalyn Murray O’Hair is petitioning the FCC to ban religious broadcasting from America’s airwaves.
Never mind that this woman died in 1995. The fact is she was never involved in such a thing even while alive! Yet the letters (I’ve been getting them for thirty years, most recently ten months ago) and phone calls and now emails continue to come in. Why? Because despite the fact that we complain against media bias, Christians tend to believe whatever we hear—in newspapers, websites, blogs and emails, and in personal conversation.
In the End of the Spear controversy, many people will not get the word that the most damning things the article said about Steve Saint and Mart Green—things which many have forwarded and stated to others as gospel truth—are simply false. Some people will go to their graves believing this and telling others about it, and warning them not to watch the End of the Spear on DVD, not to watch the documentary Beyond the Gates of Splendor, not to buy Steve Saint’s book or go hear him speak, etc. Or if they do, it will be under a cloud of suspicion.
I too have been sometimes guilty of believing the worst about my brothers without hearing their side of the story. It makes me ashamed. I confess it publicly. I repent of it. I pray I will never do it again, and if I do that I will be quick to repent.
Speaking of repentance, it is more than just saying “I made a couple of little mistakes, sorry. Okay, everything’s fine now so I can move right on and get back to hammering my brother.” When we wrong our brothers—I mean all of us, beginning with me—let’s take it seriously.
Psalm 51 is an expression of pure repentance. Notice that there is no explanation of the extenuating circumstances, of how busy the king is, how demanding his responsibilities, how lonely the man at the top is, how irresponsible it was for Bathsheba to be naked on a rooftop, how Uriah was a neglectful husband, etc. David didn’t point to others’ failures. He didn’t explain or rationalize or justify or qualify his sin. HE OWNED UP TO IT 100%. He didn’t care how bad he looked. He just admitted he was wrong.
That’s the kind of repentance we need to practice when we misrepresent our brothers and sisters and believe the worst of them. I am not just talking about that blog or the End of the Spear issue. It’s about all of us, all the time.
We dishonor our God and each other when we gossip and accuse and delight in our brother’s alleged errors. And when we pass them on to others who use them to attack the reputations of our brothers, it is just wrong. And we need to repent. I need to repent.
I encourage you, if you have stated to other people, or said something at your church, or forwarded an email linking to a website claiming that the producers of the End of the Spear knew all about Chad Allen’s homosexuality or his activism when they first offered him the part, please go back to them and correct what you have said. It is false. If you hear others repeat these falsehoods, please graciously correct them and point them toward what is true
Steve and Mart explain the sequence of events in their answers to six questions. You can believe them or you can believe the homosexual magazine that said they knew, and that they’d read all about Chad in their magazine before offering him the part. I choose to believe my brothers. Like the rest of us, they’re not perfect, but I know them well enough to believe them.
Life and Death, the Tongue, Forwarded Emails and Blogs
This whole story is a reminder that the power of the words we speak is far greater than we realize. “Life and death is in the power of the tongue.” Years ago I put together a number of Scriptures on the power of our words: Biblical Principles for Godly Verbal Communication. Their cumulative weight is stunning. I encourage you to read them and meditate on them, and examine your heart and habits.
The truth and power of these Scriptures is written all over this situation involving the End of the Spear. And these biblical principles apply every bit as much to our written words as our spoken ones.
In fact, usually our written words assume more permanence and reach further and wider. Let me say something to my fellow writers of books and blogs and emails, words which I direct at myself as well: the blessing of reaching further and wider becomes a curse when our words are untrue and ungracious.
These powerful tools we are using, emails and the internet and blogs, can serve either God or Satan, good or evil. And make no mistake, God holds us accountable for every word we say, including the careless ones. Jesus said, “But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken” (Matthew 12:36). This means we better think carefully before we pass on emails that may be false.
This End of the Spear situation is also a timely reminder of the inherent dangers of blogs, and I am not just referring to the blog by this pastor. Usually there is no editor. No checks and balances. Yet because you have words attractively placed on a screen, there is an illusion of credible research. Often the research is minimal and limited to internet sites.
But there are a lot of truths you can’t just Google. You’ve got to make the effort to go directly and privately to your brother, just like Jesus commanded us to.
Blogs have no publisher with a legal department or wise counsel to look at potentially slanderous accusations and say “Have you gone to them and asked them to respond?”
After writing more than 60 books, I know there can be inaccuracies even after a dozen people in our office and at the publishing house have looked over manuscripts. But when it’s just the lone blogger, where’s the process, the give and take, the wise counsel and accountability? Where’s the iron sharpening iron?
With blogs, there is often almost no gap between composition and publication. The potential result is misinformation by the truckloads. If I’m cranky or tired or busy today, I can hammer on somebody without bothering to get my facts straight or allowing enough time to pass to evaluate my impulses biblically and get some wise counsel before proceeding.
Isn’t all this a natural spawning ground for the “careless words” Christ says we’ll have to give an account of on judgment day?
There are very good blogs, of course. The one that unintentionally passed on some falsehoods in this case is no doubt sometimes good, probably very good. But this time, the article contained terrible falsehoods, and was picked up and spread far and wide among Christians. Our brothers and sisters and their families are suffering some serious hurt as a result.
This hurt includes the accusation, due to an inference by the author about them reading a homosexual magazine—which is totally false—that they too are homosexuals. There has also been at least one email and posting that suggests the possibility of inflicting physical harm on these families. How would you have liked to have been the wife reading that email while her husband was away?
Now, I am convinced that the pastor would NEVER have endorsed this kind of thing. But careless words easily fly out of control. Sometimes our misspoken words are taken by others who will do something with them we never would have wanted.
The Biblical and Moral Mandate of Grace
All of us who believe Scripture agree that lying and stealing are sins and are an abomination to God. You have to wear blinders (as some do) to believe otherwise. These things are despicable in his sight. So is gossip. So is bearing false witness against your brother. So is pride and arrogance and sowing seeds of disunity.
Jesus said, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” How would you like to be treated if you made some very difficult gut-wrenching decisions and went to many spiritual advisors and believed God wanted you to go a certain direction, only to hear it said (by those who did not pour out their pleas for God’s guidance with tear-stained faces) that you have betrayed the Christian community, and betrayed your father’s heritage by doing what you believe God led you to do?
“If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all” (Romans 12:18). “Strive for peace with everyone” (Hebrews 12:14). Jesus said “Blessed are the peacemakers.” God has indeed called us to battle, which takes boldness and courage. But do not mistake expressions of slander, cruelty and verbal mob behavior as doing spiritual battle. Humility, grace and peacemaking are often God’s greatest tools in the battle for righteousness and justice.
Psalm 133:1 says, “How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity!”
What are we doing to cultivate this kind of unity? Sometimes we must disagree with our brothers. But are we going out of our way to assume the best rather than the worst? Are we laboring to share our opinions in a spirit of love and grace?
Proverbs 6:16-19 says there are six things God hates, seven things detestable to the Lord. “Hands that shed innocent blood” would apply to abortion. “A heart that devises wicked schemes and feet that are quick to rush into evil” could apply to both homosexual and heterosexual sin and their advocacy. But let’s not stop there. The passage also includes a “false witness” and one “who stirs up dissension among brothers.”
Wouldn’t we all like to think that WE couldn’t be guilty of any of the seven things God hates? I would. But if we say that then we have “haughty eyes” and “lying tongues,” which covers the remaining deadly sins. We all get nailed, don’t we?
I would plead with the Christian community to respond to Mart Green and Steve Saint and others, with grace and humility. While “Judge not lest you be judged” is perhaps the most misused statement in Scripture, it does have its proper application, doesn’t it? So does “Let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall,” and “Pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall.”
So too does James 2:13, which says “judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment!”
Where is the mercy among evangelical Christians? Personally, I’ve seen a lot of it. I’ve also seen a lot of unmerciful condemnation of the sort that Jesus repeatedly denounced.
Now I realize that some know nothing but “mercy” and tolerance, and know nothing of truth. I am not advocating this. I am a truth-oriented person. Truth has been very important to me ever since I came to Christ as a teenager. I was brought out of lies to believe the truth, and it is sacred to me.
But Jesus often condemned the Pharisees, those whose doctrine was closest to his own. Why? For their lack of grace. Jesus came full of grace and truth. I do not want the truth to be compromised. (I was devastated when I heard of Chad Allen’s homosexual advocacy—though not as devastated as Mart Green and Steve Saint were, and not for as long and excruciating a period.)
Our Jesus came “full of grace and truth.” I think we should approach this End of the Spear controversy with a great measure of grace.
In what I have read about this, I have seen a lot of questioning of motives of our brothers in Christ. This troubles me. We’re told in 1 Corinthians 4:5, “Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men’s hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from God.”
God tells us, essentially, “Don’t set up your own judgment seat, because I know the motives of the heart that you don’t.” We lack a few important qualifications for being judges: not only holiness, but a little thing called omniscience!
Those words of our Lord are worth repeating because clearly we are not heeding them: “But I tell you that men will have to give account on the Day of Judgment for every careless word they have spoken” (Matthew 12:36).
I have sometimes spoken careless words against my brothers. I pray that God would give me the grace and humility to speak my words more carefully.
I think Titus 3:2 is a good guideline for us: God calls us “to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility toward all men.”
Summary and Challenge
It is just like Satan to try to sabotage the retelling of the most powerful missionary story of the modern era, and it is just like God to work in the hearts of his people to redeem the situation and use it to call to the attention of the church our desperate need for truth, grace, humility and kindness.
I encourage you to read the answers of Mart Green and Steve Saint to questions about End of the Spear and Chad Allen. Regardless of your opinion, at least you can see the actual unedited words of these, our brothers in Christ, who sought to follow God’s lead to make a film that tells a great story. (To the pastor’s credit, he has also posted their responses on his website.)
After hours of talking with these men and seeing their humility and desire to honor God, and the fruits of the spirit in their lives, I choose to believe them and give them the benefit of the doubt. “Do unto others as you would have them do to you.” Isn’t that what you would want if you were in their shoes?
I also believe that both the documentary Beyond the Gates of Splendor and the movie End of the Spear are worthy of our viewing and use in our families and churches, and with nonbelievers as well. Countless people have told me how deeply they have been touched by both the documentary and the movie.
Please ask God for guidance and draw your own conclusions. And please pray for the Saint and Green families and others associated with Every Tribe Entertainment, for whom this thing has become a painful ordeal.
Also pray for the pastor who is a brother in Christ, as he attempts to rectify what has happened. Pray that he would take bold and ongoing steps in restitution.
And also pray for Chad Allen that he would be brought to the end of himself (as all of us need to be, regardless of which sins we happen to embrace and advocate). And that Chad may be drawn into a real relationship with Jesus Christ. How I would love to one day embrace him as my brother.
And wouldn’t you love for those of us who are already each other’s brothers and sisters to learn how to believe the best of each other? And to speak the truth to each other in love? And to be like Jesus toward each other: full of grace and truth?
One thing is certain: a world torn apart by suspicions and false accusations will never be won to Christ by a church riddled with the same.
If you feel God is leading you to do so, please do all you can to correct the falsehoods. Call people you’ve heard talk about this. Talk to your pastor or your church. Hit “reply to all” to those emails you’ve received, and tell the sender and the recipients, there have been some falsehoods stated, and there is another side to this story. And refer them to Mart and Steve’s answers.
Please consider doing what you can to help mercy triumph over judgment.
Randy Alcorn (@randyalcorn) is the author of over sixty books and the founder and director of Eternal Perspective Ministries.