In the 1997 film, ‘The Apostle’, actor Robert Duvall plays the character of Euliss F. ‘Sonny’ Dewey. He is a Pentecostal pastor with a wandering eye. It is not clear from the start whether he is sincere or a charlatan? It is not clear whether he is a hero or a villain?
In one of the early scenes of the movie, Duvall comes across an accident where a young couple lay in their car, severely injured. Duvall sensing a moment to evangelise, sneaks up to the car and invites the dying husband to give his life to Jesus. Duvall is a zealot. Just before he is spotted by a local sheriff and shooed away from the scene, the young man he is preaching to decides to follow Christ. Duvall is full. He is excited that two more people are born again, and he skips away from the scene where the young couple still lay in agony, most likely facing death. It is a jarring and disturbing scene. It is unclear whether the action of Duvall was for the benefit of the couple or to stroke his own ego. It seems he has such passion for Jesus, but there is a distinct lack of empathy or compassion for the couple in pain.
To be honest I did not like the character he played.
Then everything changes for the Apostle. His comfortable life is disrupted. His world falls apart, and he finds himself on the run from the law.
On the run his passion for Christ cannot be denied. He starts a small church in a back water town of Louisiana. Yet here is he is some how different. He has changed. We now see a man who will bleed for this little church. He is prepared to give everything he has to see this church grow. He cares deeply about the people. He will not abandon them even when he knows that ultimately the law will catch him if he stays.
I found myself liking the Apostle E.F. by the end of the movie.
It raises the question of whether Sonny (a.k.a. The Apostle E.F.) is a good man or a bad man? Maybe the answer is yes. He is both. He is a broken and terribly flawed man, who has a deep passion for God and others, and in the end he lives a heroic life.
It is not his perfection that makes him a hero, it is sacrifice and genuine love for others. He is, to use the term coined by Carl Jung and made popular by Henri Nouwen, a “wounded healer”, some one who is prepared to join God in his activity and see others the way God does, despite their own brokenness. Maybe that is the best any of us can hope to be? Not to be perfect, but to be wounded healers through who God can make himself known.