Posted by: sean | April 24, 2007

Dirk Willems

I recently came across this picture of a man named Dirk Willems who lived in Asperen, Netherlands in the 16th century.

Dirk was caught, tried and convicted as an Anabaptist in those later years of harsh Spanish rule under the Duke of Alva in The Netherlands. He escaped from a residential palace turned into a prison by letting himself out of a window with a rope made of knotted rags, dropping onto the ice that covered the castle moat. Seeing him escape, a palace guard pursued him as he fled. Dirk crossed the thin ice of a pond safely. His own weight had been reduced by short prison rations, but the heavier pursuer broke through. When Dirk Willems perceived that his pursuer was in danger of his life, he quickly returned and aided him in getting out of the water, which saved his life. The palace guard wanted to let him go, but the burgomaster very sternly called to him to consider his oath, and so he seized Dirk Willems and led him back to the castle. This time the authorities threw him into a more secure prison, a small, heavily barred room at the top of a very tall church tower, above the bell, where he was probably locked into the wooden leg stocks. Soon he was led out to be slowly burned to death on May 16th, 1569 by the Catholic authorities.

I was so moved by this incredible example of compassion for one’s enemy. Self-sacrificial love is the mark of Christianity and it is always a sacrifice to love one’s enemies. It doesn’t make sense in light of this present age but when we keep our eyes on the soon coming kingdom when all will be made right, suddenly with God’s help the impossible becomes reality.

Websites that speak about Dirk Willems:


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