“Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you (Phillipians 4:9).”
In John Wayne’s final film, The Shootist, he portrays an aging gunslinger named J.B. Books. He is the last of his breed in 1901, but he is dying of cancer and he finds lodgings in the boarding house of the widow Rodgers ( played by Lauren Bacall) in order to pass away peacefully.
However, after some initial conflicts with Mrs. Rodgers and her son Gillom (played by Ron Howard), Books and the family become friends. In his interaction with the widow and her son, he notes the dislike Mrs. Rogers has for one his old enemies, Mike Sweeney, and chastises Gillom for working Jay Cobb, a no-good dairy man.
Books was told by the doctor who broke the news of his impending death that his demise would be painful. The doctor advises him that a man of his courage won’t want to go out this way. So Books arranges a shootout with Sweeney, Cobb and Jack Pulford, a local bartender. All three men have reasons to go gunning for Books, and welcome the chance to take their opportunity to kill the famous shootist.
But Books is not only looking to avoid his own painful death. He also wants to protect his new-found loved ones from the local villains who could pose a threat to them. So in effect he is “killing two birds with one stone”. He intends to go out shooting, and take the bad guys with him.
Books bloody past is not one to admire. But his character has elements of a nobility. His character is biblical. In fact, he is a type of Christ. Jesus Himself died protecting us from evil forces who given a chance would destroy us. God is a “father to the fatherless, a protector of widows (Psalm 68:5)”.
Books characterr is also similar to that of the apostle Paul. Like J.B. Books, he was a man of courage. Paul’s courage was inspired by a desire to exalt Christ in his life and to serve others (Phillipians 1:20-21; 217).
Books had one other motive. He wanted to be an example to Gillom. He accomplished this. In the final scene, Gillom tries to save Books’s life. He uses a gun to do it, but tosses it away when his task is done. In his dying moment, Books smiles at Gillom’s choice. The implication is that seeking to help others is noble, but using violence to do it should be avoided.
We all need role models. Sometimes we find them in the most unlikely people. We may not always find godly leaders in our church or fellowship, but they’re out there.