According to author Michael Munn in his biography, James Stewart: The Truth Behind The Legend, after the actor’s first western movie, many movie-watchers complained that the actor had broken movie tradition. The movie was not full of shootouts, renegade Indians, and larger than-life heroes. Stewart played a sheriff who vowed to never wear a gun, something previously unheard of in the land of Tom Mix and Hoot Gibson. The movie, Destry Rides Again (1939), paved the way for such classics as Shane (with a similar plot) and The Shootist, and such parodies as James Garner’s Support Your Local Sheriff.
Destry, may have been a role that Stewart relished, for both the character and Stewart stood up for right against seemingly insurmountable odds. In real life, Stewart’s foe was mobster Bugsy Siegel, who had helped transform Las Vegas from a sleepy western town into a gangsters paradise and then moved his operation to Hollywood. Stewart detested the mob and thought even less of Siegel. Several times the gangster and the movie star faced off – over a girl, over treatment of a mutual friend, or over general principles. Each time, Stewart stood up to the mob boss, and never showed fear. Friends Henry Fonda and Burgess Meredith urged him to stop making waves, afraid it would cost him his life, but Stewart never gave an inch to Siegel.
Eventually Siegel was gunned down by his own people and Stewart lived to a ripe old age. Stewart is quoted as saying that he believed Siegel respected him, even if he didn’t like him.
In 1 Thessalonians 4:12, Paul encourages Christians to be sanctified. One of the reasons for sanctification, he says, is
so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.
The world may hate us. They may persecute us. They may make martyrs of us, but they should respect us.
Why should they respect us? Because we will stand strong – in all cases – in the power of God through the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Because if Christ’s love shines through us, we even will represent all that is sacred, pure, and holy. We will stand apart from the world. We will be God’s children, and the world will know this because of our undying love for them. Yes, we will love even they who persecute us.
We will love them and not be afraid, for example do not fear the one who can take the life of the body. We fear the One who, after the body has died, has the power to throw the soul into hell. (cf. Luke 12:4-5).