These days in 2010, we in the Body of Christ attempt to show tolerance and patience toward our brothers and sisters in Christ who beliefs are not exactly like ours. There has always been a lot of diversity within Christianity and it seems that only in the last century nor so the believers have finally taken to heart Romans 10:9-10 If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. . However this is not always the case now nor was it the case in 1529.
In the 1500s all major Christian denominations saw baptism as necessary for salvation and necessary for babies and infants, and they believed that it was wrong to delay baptism until the child had reached a certain age; they did, however, require that those who accepted Christ later in life should confess a baptismal creed at baptism, which helped assure their salvation. There was a branch of Christianity that did not believe that salvation was brought by baptism, they were called the Anabaptists, and they believed that one should be able to make their own confessions of faith according to Romans 10:9-10 and so refused baptism to infants. They chose to be re-baptized as willing adults.
The Anabaptists were early promoters of a free-church, the freedom to worship Christ as you saw fit, and freedom of religion. When this way of religious though was introduced by the Anabaptists in the 15th and 16th centuries, religious freedom independent of the state was unthinkable to both clerical and governmental leaders. Religious liberty was equated with anarchy, as the church ruled with an iron hand most governments. The punishment for such religious freedom of thought was imprisonment and many times death.
The Anabaptists believed in many pillars of our modern doctrine such as the ultimate authority of the scripture as the word of God, the freedom of religion, separation of church and state, nonconformity to the world, voluntary church membership and voluntary believer’s baptism, evangelistic zeal, and the priesthood of all believers.
But believe it or not this way of thinking was considered heresy at the time and the Anabaptists were persecuted tortured and killed for this way of thinking by the organized church of the time. Thousands of Anabaptists were cruelly tortured and killed. For the most part these were peaceful citizens who did not believe in war and who became the forerunners of today’s Mennonites and Amish. Although no criminal charges were proven against them, they were put to death. Men were executed by fire; and the women by drowning. The Anabaptists were so bold in their testimony for Christ that authorities clamped their tongues before leading them out to their execution so that they could not speak up and win more converts.
There was an Anabaptist in the 16th century that been thrown into prison for his faith. His name was Dirk Willem, and he lived in the Netherlands. He was one of the many martyrs of his time period and his story in particular is touching. Dirk was captured and imprisoned in his home town of Asperen. He knew he awaited execution in prison. Know the fate that awaited him, he devised a plan to escape. His prison was gated and surrounded by a moat. However, as winter set in the moat froze over. In his brilliant plan to escape, Dirk tied some rags into a rope to lower himself to the ground below, slid out a window, and quickly dropped onto the ice in the moat. He was not fast enough, as a guard saw him escaping and pursued after him. Dirk made his way across the ice quickly and then began to run away from the prison across the open fields.
As he was running from the guard Dirk ran across a frozen pond. Dirk made it across the ice, as his own weight had been reduced by short prison rations, but the heavier guard that was pursuing him broke through the ice on the pond. The guard crashed through the ice, crying out for help. The guard was facing imminent death without help as he could not pull himself from the icy waters. Dirk heard his desperate cries for help and returned to the pond.
Dirk proved his faith and belief in Christ, as he said to himself, “For me to live is Christ; and to die is gain.” He rescued the guard, pulling him from the frigid waters.The guard then seized Dirk and led him back to the prison, as he had sworn as an officer of the peace and had to do his duty. This time the authorities threw him into a secure small, heavily barred room at the top of a very tall tower, where he was locked into wooden leg stocks.
He was condemned to death for being re-baptized, and for having church services in his home and letting others be baptized there. The record of his sentencing read: “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 Willem, a 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 at the stake by fire on, May 16, 1569. It was very windy that day and the wind blew the flames away from him so that his death became long and miserable. Time and time again Dirk cried out to God. The authorities in mercy finally not being able to watch him suffer any longer, ordered an end his torment, and he was quickly put to death.
This story moved me to my core as I read about Dirk’s love for his enemy, and I was so moved by this incredible compassion for those who had jailed and persecuted him. His sacrifice while escaping showed tremendous love, as it is the true mark of Christ to show love to your enemies. This should be a lesson we all take to heart to demonstrate the love of Christ toward one another.
We in the body of Christ sometimes have problems showing His love when even one of our brothers or sisters that believe a little different than we do, who are not even the enemy. Instead of reaching out in love we are quick to berate, criticize or give them a ”word” from the Lord to strengthen or prove our own position. Let me say to all believers, we do not have our own position. His position is our position. His agenda is our agenda. His love is to be our love, and His love was given that all mankind might be saved.
When reaching out in love, I pray that we never have to reach and save someone who would ultimately bring about our own death as Dirk did. I do however pray that we can reach out in the love of Christ to the world and especially to others in the body of Christ, as we remember men like Dirk who gave their lives that we might know Christ in all His fullness and glory and that we might have the freedom to worship Him in spirit and in truth. May we exercise compassion as Dirk did to those around us as Jude 22 becomes a way of life for us…There are some of you having compassion, thereby making a difference in the world.