I read an amazing story this week that I wanted to share with you. Dirk Willems is a hero in the Mennonite faith. He was an Anabaptist in the Netherlands in the 16th century. The Mennonites have three beliefs that are foundational to their faith: adult baptism, separation of church and state, and non-violence in all situations. Because he baptized adults and rejected infant baptism, he was condemned by both Protestants and Catholics. He was eventually arrested for this practice. He was able to escape from prison on a rope made from knotted ropes. After climbing down from his cell, he found a think layer of ice surrounding the prison. Due to the weight he loss in prison, he was able to scurry across the ice. A guard was following him and fell through the ice. Willems heard the guard yelling and returned to pull him out of the water and save his life. This led to his recapture, torture, and eventually, being burned at the stake.
It’s easy to see how the Mennonites could lift Willems up as a hero of the faith. Someone who held to his belief of non-violence, that he couldn’t stand by and watch a man drown, even when it meant returning to the cell he had just escaped from. Someone who would risk his freedom, and even his life, to rescue someone who was persecuting him. Someone who showed the same extravagant love as Jesus. It is much like Christ saying, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do”, as he died for everyone including the Romans who had put them there.
Willems raises several important questions for us. How are we showing extravagant love in our lives? How can we be more Christlike? Maybe most importantly, do we have any beliefs that we hold so dear that we would be willing to risk imprisonment or even death?
Matthew 16:24 “Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”