A huffy and sarcastic interviewer recently asked bestselling author Eric Metaxas how he could write a book titled “Seven Men: And the Secret of Their Greatness.”
“Why not write about three men and three women?” was the male interviewer’s patronizingly indignant point. It is in the cultural bellwether of that shallow, politically correct question that the importance of Metaxas’s latest work is clearly revealed.
On its surface “Seven Men” is a brief (192 pages) biographical work highlighting the personal and secular sacrifices and historic contributions of seven Godly, Christian men – George Washington, William Wilberforce, Eric Liddell, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Jackie Robinson, Pope John Paul II (Karol Wojtyla) and Chuck Colson.
But at its core, brilliantly outlined in the book’s introduction, is this vital message: Western culture in general and American culture in particular has lost perspective of what a hero actually is and, fundamentally, what “manhood” actually is. Greatness, Metaxas asserts, begins, resides and flourishes in respecting the authority of God and serving others. The example of these seven men extends to their “surrendering themselves to a higher purpose, of giving away something they might have kept.”
Washington refused the kingship of the United States of America in order that the nation might remain free. Wilberforce gave up social position in early 19th century England for “Two Great Objects:” (1) to end the slave trade and (2) the “Reformation of Manners.” That second object may look laughable, but what Wilberforce accomplished was to imbue Western society with the Christian, moral imperative of helping the weak.
Liddell was the subject of the movie “Chariots of Fire,” giving up a sure gold medal in the 100-meter dash in the 1924 Paris Olympics because he would not run on Sunday, the Lord’s Day. Liddell unexpectedly won the 400-meter race later that week and worked the rest of his life as a Christian missionary in China.
Bonhoeffer was the German theologian who felt God’s call to return to Germany in 1939 – from the safety of America – to oppose Hitler. He was martyred in a prison camp three weeks before Hitler’s death.
Brooklyn general manager Branch Rickey’s careful selection of Jackie Robinson (both were devout Christians) to break baseball’s color barrier led to unprecedented strides in American civil rights. Pope John Paul II survived an assassination attempt. Chuck Colson, complicit in some of the nastiest political shenanigans in U.S. history in the Watergate scandals of the Nixon White House, founded Prison Ministry Fellowship.
Metaxas helps us see the sacrifice of Jesus in these men, and the overarching, critical importance of recognizing and obeying God’s authority in a man’s life.
It’s a book I want my sons to read.