On Sunday at the Mennonite Church of Ouagadougou I (Nancy) preached on “enemy love” and Jesus’ command to love one’s enemies. I then shared some stories of Mennonites and Anabaptists who have demonstrated enemy love in the past. One of the examples was Dirk Willem. For those of you who don’t know the story here is a brief synopsis:
Dirk Willem was an Anabaptist preacher who was imprisoned for his faith. He managed to escape from prison and was fleeing on foot when he was spotted and the soldiers gave chase. He came to a lightly frozen pond and – due to his small size and light weight – he crossed the pond. One of the soldiers who gave chase was not so lucky and fell through. Dirk went back and rescued his pursuer who then re-arrested him. This time Dirk was locked up more securely and did not manage to escape again. He was executed, dying a martyr’s death.
I invited the congregation to reflect on the story and give their impressions. Now if, like me, you grew up in a Mennonite church and are familiar with this story, Dirk is a hero who kept the faith at the cost of his life. To the young people in Ouagadougou, however, the story should have had a different ending! Like the crossing of the Red Sea, Dirk was saved by God who drowned his enemies. He should have kept going, praising God who fought on his behalf! Dirk failed to discern correctly what God was doing!
From my perspective, this interpretation is near blasphemy, but it makes very good sense to anyone not brought up on stories from The Martyr’s Mirror! Maybe a rose that is called something else really isn’t a rose after all!