Come and Die

444 years ago today…

Dirk Willem was a Christian who opposed infant baptism, believing people should only be baptized on confession of faith.  In those days which were dark and dangerous to Europe’s Anabaptists, the law caught up with Willem in his home town in the Netherlands.  In prison knowing his inevitable fate, Dirk tied strips of cloth together into a rope and escaped.  Crossing the moat’s thin ice surrounding the prison, he made it safely to the other side.  The guard chasing him was not as fortunate.  As the frigid waters pulled him under, he shouted for help.  Freedom was within his grasp but Dirk believed a Christian helped his enemies.  He turned back and pulled the struggling man to safety.  Grateful, the drenched man lay on shore and was prepared to permit Dirk to flee.  But a sheriff on the other side brusquely reminded him of his oath and duty.  The guard reluctantly prodded Willem back to the prison.

For being rebaptized, holding secret church services in his home, and for allowing rebaptisms there, Dirk Willem was condemned to the stake by the judges.  On this day, May 16 in 1569, he died in the flames for his faith.  As Dietrich Bonhoeffer reminds believers, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.”