By Eric Metaxas
Categories: Biography/Memoir, Inspirational People, Motivational
It has been said that hindsight is always 20/20. Looking back at one's life or that of someone else often summons countless "should haves," "could haves," and "would haves." More important, it can reveal moments of courage, graciousness, unwavering faith, and surefooted leadership – true qualities of greatness.
But man isn't great by hindsight alone. People witness greatness everyday – in the actions of friends, family, and even strangers.
Bestselling author Eric Metaxas has assembled a stellar lineup of great men in his latest book, "7 Men." In the opening pages, Metaxas says that we all need heroes and role models, great ones. "Seeing and studying the actual lives of people is simply the best way to communicate ideas about how to behave and not to behave," he says.
Take Jesus, arguably the greatest role model. Jesus "communicated himself to the men who would communicate him to the world." These men, his disciples, lived with Jesus for three years and not only heard him talk the talk, but also saw him walk the walk. "That's how he made disciples – who would make disciples, who would make disciples" (xiv).
Jesus multiplied more than loaves and fishes; he propagated greatness. And in Metaxas's aptly titled book, he introduces – or reintroduces – readers to seven others who exemplified this same greatness: George Washington, William Wilberforce, Eric Liddell, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Jackie Robinson, Pope John Paul II, and Charles W. Colson. Why these men? They "all evinced one particular quality: that of surrendering themselves to a higher purpose, of giving something away that they might have kept" (xxii).
Each man's story, pared down to a perfect portion that can be read in any order, chronicles his strength and service to others and his communion with God. Whatever these men did, they did not do alone, as Wilberforce acknowledged. With faith in God, Wilberforce renounced the bad behavior of England and abolished the slave trade there. His contemporary, Washington, led the troops to victory in war, and stepping off his high horse, nurtured the infancy of America, molding it into a powerful independent nation.
Liddell, the Scottish Olympic runner, ran to glorify God – but wouldn't run on the Lord's Day. Later, as a missionary to China, he learned that his athletic gift was God's way of bringing people to him so that he could in turn help them. Bonhoeffer, a German pastor, spoke out against Hitler, reminding the masses of the one true authority – the higher authority of God. The same year Bonhoeffer was executed per Hitler's orders, the Nazis were met by another form of resistance – the humble prayers of Karol Wojtyla, who would later become Pope John Paul II, the leader of the Catholic Church.
Across the pond, one man changed the game of baseball forever. Robinson lived the words of Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, turning the other cheek so men of all colors could play ball. Colson, President Richard Nixon's special counsel, didn't care what others thought either – except God. Caught up in the Watergate scandal, he turned a prison sentence into a newfound conviction to God. After all, "God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God" (182).
Collectively, these stories of sacrifice and determination paint a picture: "This is the way, walk ye in it" (80). In moving beyond history book material and focusing on the manhood of these historical figures, Metaxas reminds us that living a God-centered life – simply setting self aside and seeing through God's eye – despite the grim circumstances is paramount to greatness. These men did it and so can we. "7 Men" is fresh, fun, and a hands-down great read for those who may already know these men and those who don't. The greatness of these seven all-stars will live on, as will that of others who follow in their footsteps.