Do you have great people in your life? Do you have mentors that you look up to and respect? I can think back on my life and say with confidence that I have had great men and women in my life who have helped me, challenged me and made me better by sharing with me their experience and life stories. These men and women have been folks of a diversity of age and experience. Some have been family, others close friends, and others are only present in my life for a season.
One thing that all of these individuals have done is leave an indelible impression on my person. These mentors and friends have given me my perspective on the world and on myself.
I recently received a book from one of those people in my life. It is called Seven Men by Eric Metaxas. Metaxas describes seven great men throughout recent history who have instructed him as he has studied their lives. Even though each of these men are dead and lived in different times than we do, their stories call to us from beyond the veil. They tell us stories of great trials overcome, convictions in the presence of overwhelming social pressure, and of mistakes that were learned from and made them stronger. The book focuses mainly on what manhood looks like in a world dominated by men who often use their power for destruction and vice. Our time is no different and we need guidance from men such as these who have been in the face of evil but have done good.
According to Metaxas, the generations have lost their way as a result of forsaking the great examples of men and women who have journeyed before us. In many ways and with just cause, we have begun to distrust the past and abhor it for its evils.
However, in our efforts to call out the evil done in harsh times and to clean up the skewed versions of our romanticized past, have we not also engaged in hubristic attitudes that ignore the legacy and wisdom that comes with age and experience?
Because of this, we are fated to repeat the errors of our fathers and mothers.
Ecclesiastes 1:9 says:
what has been done will be done again;
there is nothing new under the sun.
I would agree with this piece of wisdom. There are no new errors or sins to be invented only old vices manifested in new ways. This is why it is vital to look to our past and to seek out inspiring women and men who shared their gifts with the world. If we do not look behind we can only look to ourselves and that is a danger that will repeat genocides, racism, holocausts and violence.
From Matthew 7:1-2:
Let us stop looking so harshly on the faults of others and throwing out all of the past as evil. Certainly, history has seen some dark days and evil men have had moments where their shadow of ill intent has seemed to block out all light from the world. Let us remember those moments, not as times when evil reigned but as times when good men and women stood strong in the face of evil and were victorious.
Let us all recognize that the evil footsteps of the past have only proven to bring us to the doorstep of the present. The past may forsake us but we cannot forsake it because it created us, developed us and brought us to our current situation.
That is why we need to be inspired by the canon of history that is good, beneficial and loving, especially in moments of unprecedented evil for there is no certainty that the dark days of our fathers and mothers will not be repeated in our time.
Over the next seven weeks I will be writing brief intros/summaries on the Seven Men that Metaxas discusses in his book. These men are:
- George Washington
- William Wilberforce
- Eric Liddell
- Dietrich Bonhoeffer
- Jackie Robinson
- Pope John Paul II
- Charles Colson