Almost a week ago for my birthday, I was given from a dear couple at church a copy of the book Seven Men: And the Secret of Their Greatness (Thomas Nelson, 2013) by Eric Metaxas. It looks at the lives of seven influential men in recent world history and examines the principles they held and lived out that made them so great. As it turns out, for a little while before my birthday I had been thinking that it would be neat to read an inspiring biography of a Christian hero. Now, I have just the book to read! And, of course, I would love to share a bit of it with you as I go through the book.
As a general idea of what Metaxas is hoping to accomplish by writing brief biographies of seven famous men, consider his words:
So this is a book that doesn’t talk about manhood […] but that shows it in the actual lives of great men. You can talk about right and wrong and good and bad all day long, but ultimately people need to see it. Seeing and studying the actual lives of people is simply the best way to communicate ideas about how to to behave and how not to behave. We need heroes and role models. (xiv)
I don’t think Metaxas is trying to downplay the importance of actually talking about what is right and wrong, good and bad. Rather, he recognizes the void that contemporary culture since the 1960s has had with respect to role models. Who has the authority to say or show what is right or good has been questioned. As a culture, we are largely skeptical of anyone who declares certain ideas or practices to be absolutely true. As a consequence, our children (and we too!) have settled for heroes and heroines who make them feel good regardless of the principles or lifestyles advocated. This is utterly sad. I think Metaxas is right when he says:
Can we really believe that certain lives aren’t worthy of emulation? And that others are cautionary tales? Are we really unwilling to say that we shouldn’t try to get our children (and ourselves) to see that Abraham Lincoln is worthy of our emulation and Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin are not? (xvi-xvii)
So, as I read this book I am hoping that I can see on display the lives of men who are worthy to be emulated. As a young married man, I really do need good examples of what it means to be a great husband, friend, and man. Certainly living examples, but ones from the past discovered in literature can be very helpful too. Like the apostle Paul, for example, who said “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ“ (1 Corinthians 11:1). As I study in this book the lives of other Christian men like William Wilberforce, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and Charles Colson, I hope to find aspects of their lives I can imitate. And I pray that you can benefit from little nuggets shared here. All to the glory of God!