Brethren, join in following my example, and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us.
— Philippians 3:17
I have a habit of reading biographies. I think there is little more inspiring then looking at the lives of people who were passionate about doing good and kept to it. I also find that biographies are a good window into the truthfulness of Christianity. There is something about the way those who are truly sold out for Jesus live that is uniquely inspiring. There is a steadfastness and focused dedication that is rare in this world there…
Two such people I read or listened about recently were Corrie Ten Boom and Watchman Nee.
Corrie Ten Boom
I have loved Corrie Ten Boom’s story since even before I dedicated my life to Christ. Her selfless devotion to the Jewish people despite the obvious risk to her own life is something that uniquely stood out to me as the epidemy of a moral heroic life.
After becoming a Christian though and listening to her talks after the war and hearing more of her story for myself I am more and more amazed with this tiny woman from the Netherlands that endured all the Nazis had to offer in cruelty yet stayed the loving a gracious example that she is. Corrie was born in the Netherland and in her twenties, she was present during the Nazi German occupation. She saw Jews treated like lesser people and hated and so she and her family decided they MUST help. To them God had created all people in His image and no one deserved to be treated the way they saw the Nazis treat the Jews.
As a kind of non all-inclusive summary of what she endured:
1. Sent to a concentration camp
2. Sent to an execution camp with hard labor
3. Lost her father who died in prison for hiding Jews
4. Lost her sister in the execution camp
5. Witnessed unimaginably bad treatment of others and herself.
Yet in spite of all this when she had been through all of the above and was still suffering, she struggled and continued to pray for her torturers and care for her fellow prisoners. She continued to hope and trust in God. And after the holocaust she found the strength in God to forgive even the soldier responsible for her sister’s death.
Watchman Nee’s ministry started before the Chinese Civil war. He became a Christian later in life and took to strict discipline, spending regular time in the scriptures and encouraging others to do the same. As he continued to help others know the Lord and grow in Him he began to need funds to support the work. He began working at this brother’s chemical factory for which his own coworkers especially in Shanghai rejected him feeling that the secular business was no place for a Christian preacher. Nee continued to preach, teach and disciple until the Communist party gained power. The Communist party then began to round up preachers that would not submit to the party and to have large shaming meetings where church members would denounce the leaders rejected by the party. Watchman’s church lasted longer than most, but in the end found people to denounce him according to the party’s wishes. Nee was publicly shamed and tortured by the Red Guard during the cultural revolution. Eventually Nee was taken to court and faced trumped up charges pages long. He was called a traitor, a false preacher and cult leader and even accused of sexual misconduct (without evidence). The party continued to push Nee for a confession of these crimes until his death.
Watchman Nee endured:
1. Rejection by his own coworkers who did not understand how a preacher could have a secular job. (even though his funds were used almost exclusively to fund the church, he lived in poor conditions during his life)
2. Imprisonment and torture.
3. Public rejection by the church he founded.
4. Accusations of treason against his country, being a cult leader and trumped up charges of sexual misconduct to boot.
Yet letters from Nee during his prison time show his continued faith, his kindness and love for his fellow prisoners and his enduring through until his eventual death. His testimony of not giving a public confession alone is amazing if you look at the amount of forced testimonies received during that time in China.
Some common factors in these amazing people’s lives:
1. A love that transcended their own good.
2. A commitment to daily reading and memorization of scripture.
3. Enduring beyond what I can imagine.
4. A confidence in God’s faithfulness and the truth of His Word.
May your 2020 be blessed and may we look to the example of people like these who led lives that exemplified the Gospel and glorified God.
– This post references information from Corrie Ten Boom’s The Hiding Place and Against the Tide (Biography of Watchman Nee) by Angus Kinnear as well as a little bit of info gleaned from some of Corrie’s audio recording which can be found online.