7 Men, by Eric Metaxas
What makes a man, great? More specifically, what makes a man, a man of God? More simply, what makes a man, a man? Although not every man can be the president of the United States or an Olympic Gold Medalist, every man does need to act like a man, and every man desires to be respected as a great man. Since I’m not going to become the president of the United States, and since I’m not going to win an Olympic Gold Medal, what do I need to do in order to become a respected man that is great in my own right? Eric Metaxas presents the lives of 7 great men, and implores the reader to draw conclusions for his own life. Sometimes, I struggle with this type of application, since my baseball skills are not comparable to Jackie Robinson and my running speed is significantly slower than Eric Liddell. I’m just a regular guy with a regular job. However, I’m confident that even regular guys like me can become great. The problem is, I just don’t know how. How does a regular guy become great? Even if he doesn’t desire fame and external recognition, how does he simply become better so that he is respected among his peers? These are the types of questions that I want to find the answers to. But first, what does Eric tell us about each of these men? What makes the men is this book so great? And moreover, what general conclusions can I draw that apply to all men, including myself and other regular guys?
What makes these men GREAT?
(1) George Washington: When he was given the opportunity to hold immense power, by being offered the Kingship of the Unite States, he refused. The quality that made George Washington great is his willingness to relinquish power and stand firm in his beliefs. He avoided the greatest temptation that mortal men face, that is power.
(2) William Wilberforce: He did not always live his life in a manner that was pleasing to God. For the first part of his life, William Wilberforce was a heavy drinker, partier, and night lifer. This lifestyle was typical for men like him, who were involved in British politics. However, after he experienced a dramatic conversion to Christianity while serving in the British Parliament, he made his life mission to serve God and use his political position to end slave trade. He was successful in this pursuit. What made William Wilberforce one of Eric’s great men is that he used his talents, time, and energy to serve the Lord.
(3) Eric Liddell: Eric was always a superb athlete. What made him great is not that he won an Olympic Gold Medal in the 400m race, or that he set the world record, but that he refused to run his prime race, the 100m, which had qualifiers on Sunday. When Eric learned that the qualifying races for the 100m were being held on Sunday, he refused to race, since Sunday was the Sabbath. Despite many efforts to change Eric’s mind, he stood firm by his conviction. He went on to win the 400m race and set a new world record. After winning his gold medal, he retired from running and became a missionary in China, where he eventually died, away from his wife and children. Although the end of Eric’s life is tragic, he used all of his energy and talents to serve people. Eric will always be remembered as the guy who refused to race on Sunday but still managed to win a gold medal.
(4) Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Bonhoeffer was a Christian pastor and theologian who died for his beliefs. He led one of the most famous assassination attempts against Hitler, and just a few weeks from the end of the war, he was killed for his actions against the Nazis. He was willing to die for Christ, and that’s what makes him great.
(5) Jackie Robinson: The first black man to play major league baseball, who broke the racial barrier, was also a devout and faithful Christian. His faith, talent, and character are what led Branch Rickey to approach Jackie about being the first black person to play MLB. Jackie faced immense discrimination, but since he was fighting for something bigger than himself, he was able to remain calm and collected through all of the abuse. He combined his incredible ability to play baseball, with his humility and patience, to become the first black person to play MLB, and he opened the door for many other black players. He used the athletic and moral strengths that God gave him. I particularly liked how Rickey asked him about his wife, because Rickey believed that for Jackie to be successful, he would need the love and support of a good woman. This is a great example of how important women are, especially in the lives of great men like Jackie Robinson.
(6) Pope John Paul II: He was one of the most young, athletic, vibrant, and likeable of all the popes. He was a great Christian and moral leader, who led in all areas of his life. Like the others, he led using the position and skills that God gave him.
(7) Charles Colson: Of all the men in this book, Chuck Colson’s story was my favorite. My jaw dropped when I read about Chuck’s involvement with Nixon and the Watergate scandal, his dramatic conversion to Christianity, his time in prison, and his post-imprisonment work. In many ways, Chuck’s conversion to Christianity is similar to that of Saul’s. After working in the White House, and pursuing wealth and power, he experienced a dramatic conversion that led him to step away from his former position, and pursue a much different path. Like Wilberforce, Chuck came to faith as an adult, and he used his worldly expertise to solve deeply entrenched social problems, primarily related to prisons.
4 Characteristics of ALL GREAT men
The precise actions that make each of these men “great” are all different. However, there is a unified set of characteristics that all of these men embraced. And I think that all the characters in the Bible also embrace this set of characteristics. Similarly, I think that all men throughout history who have done something great, embrace these characteristics. And men in the future need to continue embracing these characteristics in order to make a difference in the world. Men desire respect, and by embracing these qualities, I believe that men will gain the respect that they desire in a way that is moral, just, and Biblical. So, what are these characteristics? Or rather, what do I think they are? These should be things that all of us can do.
Search for, identify, and embrace your skills/talents (for example: baseball, political leadership, teaching)
Search for, identify, and embrace your beliefs (for example: help the sick, help prisoners, help build the New Jerusalem)
Take action! Use your skills and talents to further your beliefs
Be willing to stand out from the crowd and be weird. Be different. This is similar to taking action, because it requires action to move away from the crowd.
Seize opportunity! Opportunity exists where responsibility was abdicated. When an opportunity is presented for you to utilize your skills and further your belief, then seize it! It will be scary, but that’s expected.
Surround yourself with other people. Isolated men are led astray – King David is a great example. People help align us with the appropriate actions
Along the way, refine your skills and beliefs.
How the 7 Men demonstrated the 4 characteristics of GREAT men
Do all of the men in “7 Men” fit into the aforementioned categories? I think so. Do all the men in the Hebrew Bible and Greek epic poems fit into these categories? This is the question that I want to answer. My thesis is that all great men, regardless of time, position, or impact, embrace these 4 characteristics. Is this thesis correct? Or do the 4 traits that I identified need to be updated? Can these 4 characteristics be applied to men in the Bible, and furthermore can they be applied to regular men like me and my friends?
(1) George Washington: His skillset was leadership – both military and diplomatic leadership. He believed that America should be free and not ruled by a King. He fought and led his men to victory in many heroic battles, and he became the first president of the United States. George Washington used his skills to support his beliefs, and he took significant action to do so.
(2) William Wilberforce: He was a skilled politician, who rose to a high-ranking position in the British government. After his conversion to Christianity, he believed strongly in abolishing slave trade, and he worked relentlessly to do so.
(3) Eric Liddell: He was a talented athlete, and he had a strong faith in God. He believed that it was his responsibility to obey God and help the underprivileged. He used his athletic talent to win an Olympic Gold Medal, despite his refusal to run on Sunday, and he used his fame to spread God’s Word.
(4) Dietrich Bonhoeffer: He was extremely intelligent with a high IQ, he earned a PhD in theology, and he was fiercely serious about the truth of the Bible. Despite being a German native, and living in Germany during WWII, he used his geographical location and fiery conviction to support the Jews and speak out against the Nazis by covertly conspiring against them.
(5) Jackie Robinson: Like Eric Liddell, he was a gifted athlete, who had a strong faith in God. When he was given the opportunity to battle racism and use his athletic gifts, he seized it. He leaned into God’s Word to face significant abuse and harassment, while also using his athleticism to be the most successful baseball player in his time.
(6) Pope John Paul II: He was a gifted pastor and intellectual. He believed in Catholicism. And, he used his pastoral and intellectual skills to lead one of the most popular papacies in history.
(7) Charles Colson: Like William Wilberforce, he was a skilled politician who dramatically converted to Christianity during his adult life. After his conversion to Christianity, followed by his time in prison, he believed strongly in ministering to prisoners. To promote his beliefs, he established the radio program BreakPoint, founded Prison Fellowship, and wrote several books.