Dirk Willems

Most of us have a sincere desire to do what is right, but how far does that desire go? Would it be only when it’s convenient, or if we were pressured, or would we still do the right thing even if it meant great sacrifice? Consider with me, Dirk Willems, a 16th century Anabaptist. He believed in living out the teachings of Christ and the Bible as well as humanly possible. Dirk, like others, also had to be secretive in worship for they were considered as bad as outlaws, and to be captured by the authorities, either civil or church, usually meant death. So it was one winter day that Dirk was being hotly pursued by a thief-catcher when his path led him over a frozen river. He gingerly made his way over the ice and started up the other bank when his pursuer reached the river. He hadn’t gone many steps when he heard cries for help and realized the thief-catcher had broken through the ice and was in danger of drowning. What should he do? What would you do? Without hesitation he ran back to the river and pulled him out, thus saving the man’s life. His pursuer was willing to let him go free but some officials had caught up to them by this time and compelled him to grab hold of Dirk and arrest him. Dirk was imprisoned, suffered through torture and a trial, and was condemned to death. Among his crimes were being rebaptized, having church meetings in homes, and encouraging others in the same. He was burned at the stake in 1569.

Now consider these verses; “But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven.” (Matt. 5:44-45) “Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.” (James 4:17)

I suppose, if I were Dirk, I could have said to myself, “The Lord has delivered me from, my pursuers,” and kept on running. However, in turning back, and not regarding his own fate, Dirk trusted the Scriptures. In essence, in doing the right thing, he was willing to suffer in order that another might live. He believed Jesus when he said, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me”. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.” (Matt. 16:24—25) How important is it to you that you do what is right? What choice would you have made?

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