Son, we can't shoot the Waodani. They're not ready for heaven; we are.
For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds...For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
-The Apostle Paul, 1 Cor. 10:3-4, Eph. 6:12
This past weekend I finally saw The End of the Spear, a powerful movie based on the true story of the martyrdom of five missionaries to the Waodani (also seen Auca, Huaorani) Indians in Ecuador. Upon graduation from college, the five men and their families went to Ecuador, each intending to do mission work with the various Indian tribes there. Nate Saint, the main character in the movie, was a pilot who used his plane to fly supplies to missionaries in the surrounding area. By some movement of God, he and the four other men felt called to the Waodani, a notoriously violent Amazon tribe that feared encroachment by outsiders. Shell Oil Company had wanted to drill nearby for a long time, but the murderous Waodani had kept them at bay by spearing foreigners that came into the area.
Saint and the others, including Jim Elliot, found a settlement of Waodani and in 1956, set up camp at a river near the settlement. After some initially positive contact with people from the tribe, some of the Waodani men raided the camp and killed the five missionaries who had dedicated their lives to reaching the tribe with the gospel of Christ. Their sacrifice in itself is amazing, but what the wives of the martyrs did after their husbands died is just as inspiring.
Some of them went back and lived among the tribe that had taken the lives of their relatives. Over the years, with the help of a Waodani girl who had fled their violent lifestyle to be with foreigners, the women were able to establish themselves as part of the community. To me, one of the most powerful parts of the movie was when the native Waodani girl was explaining the gospel to family members she hadn't seen since she fled years earlier. She claimed to have a message from the Creator God, "Waengongi," who the Waodani thought no longer spoke to people. She said that Waengongi had a Son and that he didn't want them to kill anymore. "He was speared, but he didn't spear back, so that the people who speared him could live well."
As I watched, something struck me. Not only were these women able to put aside the fear of death and waltz right into the village of the people who killed their family members, but they were able to do it with compassion and a desire to rescue the Waodani from their spiritual failures as well as their physical decimation. These women understood that the spears that pierced their husbands' and brothers' flesh were not the weapons that killed them. This was a spiritual battle, fought over the precious souls of the Waodani. They were the hostages, not the antagonists.
As Jesus said, the thief comes to steal, kill and destroy. The spears hurled through the air were the fiery darts of the evil one, shot to test the faith and resolve of the women who had dedicated their lives and sacrificed their families for the cause of Christ. What seemed like a monumental victory for the enemy became a one of his worst defeats of the 20th century. All because the women were able to put the crosshairs on the right foe.
Too many times, we as Christians put heavy burdens on the lost. We look down upon them because they engage in activities we shun. We expect them to meet the standards of a law that they haven't submitted themselves to, and when they miss the mark, we scoff and point our fingers as if to say, "HA! That's why we don't associate with you!"
But isn't something wrong here? Paul says that our battle isn't against flesh and blood. So why do we spend so much time opposing the homosexuals, the drug lords or those bent on taking down the Ten Commandments? Because we've forgotten that each of us has a dark past filled with everything but Jesus, we're unable to see that we have our artillery aimed at the P.O.W.'s and we're letting it fly every day. Instead of snatching people from the fire, we're embroiling them in it.
What do we call people who are outside of a relationship with Christ? Lost. Yet we act like we expect them to know the way. Just as we were at one time, they have been taken captive by an unseen, spiritual enemy. Christ has come to set them free, and we are the freedom fighters who will help release them.
In the movie, when Saint finally found a Waodani settlement someone tried to tell him to wait for government approval that could take up to 2 years. His response embodied the empathetic heart we should take to those who don't know Christ. Although not exactly, it went something like this:
"We don't have two years. In two years they'll have wiped themselves out. We have to set these people free now, before it's too late."