“For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it.”
~ Luke 9:24 (NIV)
One of the Anabaptists of the 16th Century who died in flames was Dirk Willem. His story is particularly touching, because he forfeited a real chance to escape prison and death when he turned back to help one of his pursuers.
Dirk was captured and imprisoned in his home town of Asperen in the Netherlands. Knowing that his fate would be death if he remained in prison, Dirk made a rope of strips of cloth and slipped down it over the prison wall. An alert guard began to chase him.
Frost had covered a nearby pond with a thin layer of ice. Dirk risked a dash across it. He made it to safety, but the ice broke under his pursuer who cried for help. Dirk believed the scripture that a man should help his enemies. He immediately turned back and pulled the floundering prison guard from the frigid water.
In gratitude for his life, the man would have let Dirk escape, but a Burgomaster (chief magistrate) standing on the shore sternly ordered him to arrest Dirk and bring him back, reminding him of the oath he had sworn as an officer of the peace.
Back to prison went Dirk. He was condemned to death for being re-baptized, allowing secret church services in his home and letting others be baptized as adults there.
The record of his sentencing concludes: “all of which is contrary to our holy Christian faith, and to the decrees of his royal majesty, and ought not to be tolerated, but severely punished, for an example to others; therefore, we the aforesaid judges, having, with mature deliberation of council, examined and considered all that was to be considered in this matter, have condemned and do condemn by these presents in the name; and in the behalf, of his royal majesty, as Count of Holland, the aforesaid Dirk Willems, prisoner, persisting obstinately in his opinion, that he shall be executed with fire, until death ensues; and declare all his property confiscated, for the benefit of his royal majesty.”
Dirk was burned to death on May 16, 1569. He showed love to his enemy and “saved” his life.
RESPONSE: Love for our enemies even surpasses the love of our own lives. This is the Jesus way of the cross!
PRAYER: Help me, Lord, to show love to those who are my enemies—even giving up my life.