Imagine for a moment that you live in a place where the rule of law is explicitly intertwined with religion, such that even beliefs, the content of your mind, if judged to be an error by religious authorities, could lead to your torturous execution. Now imagine further that you find yourself imprisoned for coming to bear one of these supposedly false beliefs. Now, if you happened to escape prison and the ominous flames that awaited you, and were swiftly pursued by some guard, what would you do if this guard happened to fall through thin ice into the unbearably cold and foreboding water bellow? Would you help him? What if turning back meant your life?
“What if turning back meant your life?”
In 1569, the Anabaptist, Dirk Willems, did not hesitate. Willems escaped from prison using knotted rags. The moat that surrounded him was frozen over and subsequently allowed him to run hastily upon and over it. The guard who saw and pursued was not as fortunate and broke through the ice and faced certain death. Willems, knowing full well that turning back meant he would be tortured and killed, ran to the aid of his enemy and executioner. He was thereafter taken, without trial, and burned at the stake.
“What does it take to have such courage? To be as Christ was and sacrifice our lives even for our enemies.”What does it take to have such courage? To be as Christ was and sacrifice our lives even for our enemies. This is the ugliness of history. Where Christians take other Christians and burn them at the stake for thought crimes! Where martyrs are made not by enemies of the church, but by those who are said to bear its banner. Between Willems and those who condemned him, there is no doubt in my mind which of them knew Christ and desired to live as He did. Let us not forget Dirk Willems, a true martyr for Christ, and an exemplar of Christian love.