Dirk Willem, one of our anabaptist forefathers was sent to prison and burned to death in the year 1569.
His crime? Being re-baptized as an adult, holding secret church meetings in his home and re-baptizing other adults who believed baptism was a choice made by willing adults, instead of as babies who don’t know what’s going on.
The most interesting part of his story is that Dirk actually escaped prison, he was running away from the prison when a guard noticed him and gave chase.
The thing standing in between Dirk and his freedom was a small lake recently frozen over, Dirk made it across the thin sheet of ice but the guard did not, Dirk could’ve gotten away, but the guard who was pleading for help thrashing in the freezing cold water convinced him to turn and help.
Dirk pulled him from the water, saving his life! A choice between self preservation and compassion, Dirk chose compassion and in turn ended up being thrown back in prison and later executed by fire.
I didn’t know that story until my pastor used it in his sermon on Sunday. For him it was part of a broader history lesson, but it made me think about how we Christians are perceived.
You see, Dirk wasn’t standing over his drowning oppressor and telling him he’s going to rot in hell, Dirk literally saved him.
But that’s how people see us isn’t it? We are far too worried about how people see us, we are far too concerned about self preservation.
Yes, I know I’m guilty of it too, I read over some of my previous posts and sometimes I am way too busy telling everyone what they’re doing is wrong, and don’t spend near enough time letting people know that God loves them.
How am I going to convince anyone to come to church if my message is repent or spend eternity in hell?
The message should instead be Jesus loves you and died for you, forget your old ways and come live with Him.
A friend sent me a friend request on Facebook last week, now that may not sound like a big deal, but my friend is not a Christian, he’s a good guy and I enjoy his company but faith is not something we have in common.
On Facebook I’m a bit of a preacher, I share a lot of Christian related posts and of course my blog, so for us to be friends on Facebook he would be subject to my preaching, and I know that in the secular world that’s not a popular thing to do.
So I texted him and said “look, I’m a Christian, you know that but what you don’t know is…I preach on Facebook, I have a blog in which I do more preaching and if we are friends you’re going to see it… a lot.” I went on to say “If you still want me to accept, I will. But if you don’t, I will understand, I would just rather lay it all down now rather than you unfriending me later.”
He responded with “that’s cool, I’m interested in your blog and would like to see your writing style, I won’t be blocking or unfriending you as long as you’re not going to tell me that I’m going to burn in hell everyday”
I must admit that at first I was a little taken aback by the “burn in hell” comment, is that what we Christians do? Is that how the world sees us? Our message is hell? But then I realized that with me accepting his friend request I now have a chance to change that perception!
So, “friend” if you’re reading this you should know that I will be tirelessly working to change the perception that Christians preach a gospel filled with brimstone and hellfire.
My message will be one of love and not condemnation.
There’s something else you should know as well, when we share our faith we are nervous about it, I know I am anyways. We don’t do it to condemn you or make you feel bad, we do it because we care, we care so much that we would rather risk the awkward moments than say nothing, when we share our faith it’s because we want you in heaven with us, it’s because we think that having you there, in heaven with us would be great.
We share our faith not because we want to condemn you, but because we want to hang out with you… forever.
Think of it like this, if I live my whole life and never say anything to you, and I die and I go to heaven and you die and go to hell, you’re gonna think of me as a selfish person, all that time I had the answer and I could’ve shared it with you and given you the chance to choose, but I didn’t.
I could’ve told you all about Jesus and never did I mention Him and what He did for us, who cares how awkward it would’ve been, who cares if you had shrugged me off or changed the subject, I should have tried.
I see a lot of news stories that paint Christians as an intolerant group of bigots that think of themselves as “holier than thou” and that may be true for some but certainly not all.
Regardless of how the media portrays us, we do the same thing to ourselves every time we decide to show up at a gay pride parade holding signs that say “God hates ____” or when we condemn the woman who had an abortion, or when we judge the couple that decided divorce was a better option than a life filled with resentment.
I am humbled by the Apostle Paul, a man who could’ve been an overly proud, arrogant preacher because Jesus chose to reveal Himself to him and not the others. Instead Paul saw it for what it was, a redirection of sorts. Paul could have chosen self preservation the same way that Dirk could’ve chosen self preservation, but Paul and Dirk both knew that the choice they made would more than likely end in their painful death.
That choice would also result in them living eternity with the Lord Jesus, where every tear would be wiped from our eyes, where we live in peace without the temptations of sin, where broken people who helped broken people come to Jesus live forever in glorious wonder.
From a broken person saved by Jesus, I sincerely hope that all come to realize Jesus for who He is, not that you come to Him because I threatened you with hell, but because like me, you won’t be able to fathom eternity without Him.
Thanks so much for reading, please share this message of hope and love so that maybe, just maybe through these words someone will be able to meet Him for the first time.
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