Eric Metaxas: In our culture, we raise up fake heroes. We raise up anti-heroes. We raise up villains. We’ve lost the sense of the heroic and in my mind that is deeply tragic for the culture. If you do not give kids especially, but everybody, all of us, we need this, but kids especially need heroes.
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John Fuller: That’s Eric Metaxas and he’s our guest today on Focus on the Family as we return to one of our most popular broadcasts of 2017. Your host is Focus president and author Jim Daly. I’m John Fuller. And you’re gonna hear some fascinating insights about just a few of the greatest women and men in history.
Jim Daly: John, our culture needs to be taught about women and men who have answered the call of God upon their lives to overcome amazing obstacles with unwavering faith. Today you’ll be encouraged that one person can make a difference. I know at times that life can feel overwhelming but history is replete with examples of men and women who have risen above their circumstances to follow God’s call on their life. And these ideas can impact your role as mom and dad. You can raise heroes even in a turbulent culture. And this will be a great message to share with your children, especially if you have teens or college age kids.
John: Well, I’d agree with that, Jim and Eric’s book7 Women and the Secret of Their Greatnessis the foundation for our conversation today. Tomorrow we’ll be back with7 Men and the Secret of Their Greatness. Right now you can go to the website and find both of those books and downloads of the conversation at focusonthefamily.com/radio.
Let’s go ahead and hear this conversation with Eric Metaxas. He’s a speaker, radio host and has written a number of really great books as we get this Best of 2017 broadcast underway.
Jim: We’re gonna start with three more of the women in his book,7 Womenand Eric, it’s great to have you back at Focus on the Family.
Eric: Well, I’m thrilled to be back. Thank you.
Jim: Now you’re hosting us. We’re in New York City—
Eric: Yeah, we’re—
Jim: –taping this.
Eric: –we’re in beautiful midtown (Chuckling) New York City.
Jim: Now we’re waitin’ for some pizza. What’s New York known for here? (Laughter)
Eric: Yeah, pizza’ll be here–
Jim: You didn’t bring anything.
Eric: –pizza’ll be here any minute, yeah. (Laughter)
Jim: What is the food of New York? I guess it’s everything, huh?
Eric: The food of New York is love. (Laughter) I don’t know what’s the food of New York. (Laughter) There’s … actually pizza’s a big one (Laughter). It’s … the hot dogs you get on the street are great. Those are the cheap ones, but of course, bagels, lox and cream cheese, you know, on a Sunday morning.
Jim: That’s the key, huh?
Eric: On a Sunday morning when you’re … you don’t go to church and you just readThe New York Timesand take in the liberal point of view, which is the secular point of view, you don’t need to go to church. You have your bagel. You have your lox. (Laughter)
But then you say, “What have I done? I’m going to the evening service.” (Laughter)
Jim: (Chuckling)Okay. Hey, let’s move to the content. You have really become known as a biographer. You didBonhoefferand uh … you did other—
Eric: Well, yeah, I did—
Eric: –I did the Wilberforce biography,Amazing Grace. I did theBonhoefferbook, which is the big one. But then I’ve done these two books of biographies:7 Menand7 Womenare biographies, but they’re seven shorter biographies for people who are intimidated by maybe a long book and they say, “I just want to read, you know, 20 pages on so-and-so and—
Eric: –that’s about enough really.
Jim: –yeah and my question is really, what draws you to the hero/heroine kind of uh … person?
Eric: Well … well, in the beginning absolutely nothing except that I thought, hey, what a great idea to write about so and so. But then in the course of writing about Wilberforce and in the course of writing about Bonhoeffer, it dawned on me that what I’m doing is, I’m holding up a picture of something really beautiful and true and noble and heroic and we don’t have a lot of that in our culture.
Jim: That’s so true.
Eric: In our culture, we raise up fake heroes. We raise up anti-heroes. We raise up villains. We’ve lost the sense of the heroic. And in my mind, that is deeply tragic for the culture. If you do not give kids especially, but everybody, all of us, we need this, but kids especially need heroes.
And sometimes you get Christians, they get all theological, it’s like, “Jesus is my only Hero.” That’s ridiculous. Jesus Himself would say, “I’m perfect, but there are plenty of people out there that are admirable and beautiful.” Are they sinless and perfect? No, but you’ve gotta know the difference between a Mother Teresa and a Joseph Stalin.
If you start saying, oh, well, they’re all sinners, so we can’t have a conversation about their character, that’s pure foolishness. We know that we’re all saved by grace alone, but we do need to talk about character. There’s a time to say, what that man did was noble and heroic and I hope I could do what he did. I think of our friend, Chuck Colson and people don’t know what he did. We need to … to remind ourselves of what they did and what they went through, because it inspires us directly.
I know that people come up to me and have said that from reading these stories, it has affected them. And I think, well, that’s what happens when you—
Jim: That’s the goal.
Eric: –when you bump into somebody who’s done something beautiful and noble and true, you want to emulate it.
Jim: Yes. Let’s start painting that picture. Let’s start with Joan of Arc. A lot of people may not even know really who Joan of Arc was.
Eric: She was Noah’s wife. (Laughter)
Jim: Yeah, right. (Laughter)
Eric: No, there’s … some people have said like—
Eric: –I’m just takin’ a guess, but (Laughter) I think it was Noah’s wife, right? (Laughter)
Jim: See, John, I told you that wasn’t right.
John: That wasn’t what was in the book. (Laughter)
Eric: No, Jo … Jo … (Laughter) Joan of Arc is … is one of the strangest figures from history and she’s the first woman. My7 Womenbook, they’re all in chronological order, same thing with the7 Menbook and it’s a pretty subjective list. I mean, anybody would tell you they could think of other people—
Eric: –who should be in that book. But I said, look, it’s not about uh … picking a perfect list. It’s picking a list, the best I can do to pick seven women, in this case, seven women. Um …
Jim: But to paint that picture, Joan of Arc, when did she live?
Eric: Well, that … I was gonna say, so … so you think a lot of people don’t even know about Joan of Arc. She lived in the 1400’s and her story is really bizarre. She was a farm girl.Now I don’t mean a farm girl like when they talk about Martin Luther. I’m writing about Martin Luther now. They say that, oh, he was the son of a miner and he was … no, no, no. That’s like saying Jimmy Carter was a … a peanut farmer.
You know, these people were businessmen. They were sophisticated, but they kind of humbly say, “Oh, I was a farmer” or something.This woman really and truly was a peasant, the daughter of a farmer. She smelled like the farm. She grew up on a farm. She was a humble, simple, uneducated girl, but she and her family in the 1400’s were pious. They loved God. They went to church almost every day. They took it seriously.
And something happened to this young girl and it … sometimes in history you’re prepared for it when you read about the family, like with Bonhoeffer. You say, well, we know that, that family was gonna produce some amazing people. When you look at the family of Joan of Arc, you don’t get that picture. These are humble people living on a farm in a little village in the middle of nowhere—
Jim: In France.
Eric: –in France, sorry. Uh … yeah, so she’s (French pronunciation) Jean d’Arc. We say “Joan of Arc,” but so, that’s a little village, Arc in France. And God spoke to this woman. She was very holy, very pious. She prayed and she heard voices.
Now a lot of people say, wait a minute. Hold on. Now what do you mean, she heard voices? Is that biblical? What are we talkin’ about here? Well, um … long story short, you know, you have to have discernment to say, was she crazy? Was she consorting with demons? Or were these voices from heaven?
But it’s my estimation and the estimation of most of history that in fact, she was hearing from God and the humility, the fruit in her life, that’s what tells you. It’s an incredible humility, incredible holiness. Um…
Jim: She was a girl really. You said—
Eric: She was basically—
Jim: –woman, but she’s—
Jim: –a teenager.
Eric: She’s a teenager at this point and … and then the craziest thing happens. I mean, again, you have to just go with this and when you read the chapter you’ll get the details. But at that time France was in a war with England and it was … it was just horrible. It’s just horrible.
And God spoke to her about restoring the French king and about leading the armies of France. Now try to imagine a kid, a 16-year-old girl. She knows God is speaking to her. Now if you know God is speaking to you, you really know it. You’re not thinking, yeah, I think the Lord is leading me—
Jim: Right, you—
Eric: –you know, to wear—
Jim: –either … you know it—
Eric: –to wear that jacket—
Jim: –or you don’t. Yeah.
Eric: –and that tie. No, no, no. We’re talkin’ about God Almighty speaking to you about something so deep and powerful and historical that you’re basically crazy. You’re basically gonna say, “Look, I don’t care if I die. God is speaking to me. I’m going to talk to the King of France. I’m gonna talk to the military leaders. I’m gonna tell them God has … has called me to lead France in this thing.” You know, it’s one of those things that unless you know all the details and you have some real faith, it just sounds like a crazy story.
Jim: And what happened? Where did she go off to?
Eric: Well, this is the craziest thing of all, is that France was so on the ropes with England at that point, it was kinda like a “What do you have to lose” moment, right? That the French leaves … first of all, they … they grilled her and grilled her. And of course, they didn’t take her seriously. I mean, she smelled of the farm and she did not speak the language of the nobles.
But she walked into the room and was able to say things. God said this to me. And they knew for example that there was no way she could know what she said. And this is how the prophetic operates, right, that you know, you have to test the spirits and say, like okay, uh … if this person, you know, can tell me something about myself, you know, is that sorcery or is that God?
So, they grilled her. They had ecclesiastical figures grilling her to try to understand, because can you imagine if you are failing in a war. You’re miserable. You’re on the ropes and somebody comes to you and says, “God has told me to tell you this.”
Jim: A teenage girl, no less.
Eric: You want to know, first of all, you kinda would like to believe it’s true, but you’re not gonna believe it’s true unless somehow God convinces you. But in the end, they were convinced enough that they allowed her some, you know, ability to lead an army to whatever.
And God would say to her, “You’re going to win this battle in this way.” I mean, again, I know that there are a lot of believers that when they hear this, they go, look, I don’t buy into this stuff. I’m a cessationist; that just sounds like crazy stuff to me and I’m walkin’ away.
But when you read the details, when I read the details, I said this is at least astounding enough that you should get into it a little more deeply and see what you think. Because the bottom line is, that she would say these things and then implausibly, this 16-, 17-year-old girl was leading the armies of France to victory in a war that they’d been losing for decades. It’s the craziest thing, except we’re not talking about Christian history. We’re talking about history.
And so, it’s one of the weirdest tales from history, but the bottom line is, God spoke through this woman in an extraordinary way and I think the proof of the whole thing is that the church in the end and the English so despised her, that they trumped up a case against her as a heretic, as a sorcerer, whatever it is and they burned her at the stake. We all know, Joan of Arc died. She was burnt at the stake.
And when you read the details ofthat, you just want to weep, because you get a picture of a holy … I mean, so many martyrs were killed over the centuries. And when you look at the story of a real martyr and when you have the transcripts, strangely we have the actual transcripts from the law court of the 15thcentury and they’re … they’re writing about what was said.
And when you read it, you just want to weep, because you realize this was a woman following Jesus. It’s clear as a bell and even when she died, there’s a holiness that was there and it … it’s kind of incredible.
After she died, uh … it became pretty clear to the people who had put her to death that something they … a mistake had been made. And the person who lead the charge uh … was himself condemned as a heretic. He had already died. But it’s one of these cases where justice in the end actually did prevail and the church condemned the leader who had led this fake trial against this holy woman of God.
It’s definitely the strangest story in my book,7 Women, but it’s something that I think it’s good, ‘cause it challenges us in our faith to think a little bit out of the box.
John: And Eric Metaxas has written this book,7 Womenand the Secret of Their Greatness. And you can find out more about that book atfocusonthefamily.com/radio.
Eric, you’ve got a daughter.So when she encounters that story—
John: –is she inspired or I can picture a lot of kids just sayin’, “I can never be that, so why even try?”
Eric: Well, I honestly think that uh … people when they hear you talk about these things, they have that initial reaction. But when they actually read it, the opposite happens. The story takes over and touches your heart and you don’t feel like, oh, gosh, I could never be like that. On the contrary, something … because look, we’re made in the image of God. We’re made to respond to this.
And the Lord gives us examples whether it’s examples in our own family or people we know or somebody like this in a book. When you encounter a noble life, a life given over to a higher purpose, that God has put something inside you because you’re made in God’s image, responds. You can’t even help it.
Eric: And I think that that’s what happens over and over and over again. And that’s why I feel like we’ve gotta expose our kids and our adults, me, everybody, you guys. We need to be exposed to this, because the toxicity of our culture and the negativity, when you see something beautiful and true and good, God created you to respond and that’s the point of these books.
Jim: Eric, let’s … let’s go to another figure, a more recent figure actually—Corrie ten Boom. Many Christian—
Jim: –listeners will be aware of her, because that was a World War II story.
Jim: Fill in the blanks there. Who is she? What did she and her family do to help save so many Jews in World War II?
Eric: She’s another one of these characters, you know, you just thank the Lord that He allows us to get to hear these stories. This was a woman, a Dutch woman obviously with a name like Corrie ten Boom. And she was raised as a Christian, just a generally amazing woman to begin with.
But there’s a weird historical fact that I discovered. Every now and again when I’m writing these stories, I find these things and I go, why didn’t anybody else write about this, ‘cause this is so weird and interesting?
Her family in Holland, in Amsterdam, had a thing for the Jews. They were, you know, serious Christians, but even going back into … deep into the 19thcentury, they had a thing for reaching out to Jews.
Eric: And I thought, that’s so cool. And they had a Bible study about the Jewish people in the 19thcentury. So, fast forward 100 years later. The Jews are being persecuted and this holy woman and her family said, as believers just like Bonhoeffer, just like a number of Christians, they said, we’ve got to do something. We’ve got to hide them.
So, they hid Jews in their house, definitely at the cost of their own lives. I mean, they … a number of them died as a result of doing this. But … they hid them in a room in their house and they basically were fearless. They said, we’re gonna serve God heroically. It’s what He’s called us to do. It’s so beautiful when you see the heroism and the joy. These are not dour Christians. They are joyful Christians.
And they saved many, many Jewish lives. It’s absolutely amazing. And the second part of the story really, there’s movie calledThe Hiding Place, which I recommend highly. There was even a sequel done very recently.
Um … and it tells the story of this hiding place in the house, this small place where they would hide the Jews. And then it tells the story of how finally uh … the Nazi’s caught up with them and put them in concentration camps. Women went to Ravensbruck. Um … Corrie’s sister eventually dies, but Corrie … if you think Corrie ten Boom, this is what’s so humbling, you … we think of Corrie ten Boom as this giant of the faith, but she’s a midget compared to her sister, who is such a giant of the faith that all of us think, oh, my gosh. Her sister was such an inspiration to Corrie, right. So, it puts things in perspective.
Jim: And she was an older sister.
Eric: If Corrie’s amazing … it was an older sister, but this is the kind of faith the oldest … this is the older sister who died. She had the kind of faith that this is what she said. They would do Bible studies.
Now imagine in the stinking barracks where they’re sleeping on rotting straw with lice, okay. And her sister, they’re reading through the Scriptures and it says uh … I don’t know the reference. You guys probably will, about wha … you know, thank God for everything. Thank God in all things and that …
Eric: And her sister had the kind of faith where she said, “Corrie, we need to thank the Lord for these bed bugs and for these lice.” And Corrie’s like, “Listen, I believe in the Scripture, but come on; are you kidding me? We’re supposed to thank the Lord?” And she says, “I really believe that if we’re obedient to what God says, we can’t go wrong. And it really says that. There’s gotta be … God must know something that if we have thankful hearts and thank Him even for our suffering, even for the worst things, whatever.”
And so, out of obedience, gritting her teeth I think, Corrie ten Boom thanks the Lord for the lice–
Jim: Well, and the rest of the circumstances, too.
Eric: –this whole thing.
Eric: It’s horrible, but specifically for that.
Eric: And what happens– I don’t remember the details, it’s in the book—but a little while later the guards would not come into their barrack to stop something. I don’t know what they were doing. I forget what they were doing, but typically the guards would’ve come in and would’ve shut it down—
John: Interrupted the Bible study or …
Eric: –the Bible study or whatever and they didn’t do it. And they later found out that the reason they allowed the Bible study to continue was because they didn’t want to get lice, they didn’t want to get near the lice.
And so, souls were saved because of the lice. In other words, that sometimes the Lord reveals to us what happens when we’re obedient.
Eric: And by praising God for the … and it’s not just that, that the Lord allows us to give us joy in a sense to say like, “Don’t you see that if you do what I ask you to do, I want to heap out blessings on you.” And so, Corrie ten Boom got to actually see how the Lord allows them to participate in this prayer, thanking God for the lice, so that later on they could say that, you know, I … I didn’t need to do that. The Lord still would’ve saved these souls, but He allowed me to see how by obeying Him, I was participating. So, you get those kinds of radical stories.
And then suddenly, I find myself praising God for the traffic when I’m in a taxi cab and I’m late for something and I say, “Lord, thank You for this. Your purposes are unknown to me.”
Eric: “I praise You. I pray that the traffic would go away, but if it’s not gonna go away, I praise You for it, because You’re a good God and I can trust You even with the nasty stuff.”
Jim: And that’s that attitude of thankfulness. I mean, that’s what you’re developing when you do that.Let’s go to another more modern-day example, Rosa Parks—
Jim: –very important for this country and what we have gone through with racism and segregation. Fill in the blanks there. Maybe today a lot of people—
Jim: –I was born in the ‘60s, probably like you.
Jim: But others who were born more recently wouldn’t even know who Rosa Parks is.
Eric: I’m the only 37-year-old born in the ‘60’s. (Laughter) I don’t know if you’re aware of that. (Laughter) It’s just a quirk of … of history, but it’s true. Okay, well, let me say that Rosa Parks was one of the … they called her “the Mother of the Civil Rights Movement.” And it … for people that don’t know the story uh … or if you need a refresher, it’s kind of a … almost a funny story.
She was a seamstress, a humble woman, again, a very humble woman, very bright, very godly. But one day she was on a bus and she was told to get to the back of the bus because she was black.
Jim: What year was this approximately?
Eric: This was ‘51? I have even gotta look it up in my book. But basically, this was during the era of the Jim Crow era, as we all know, down in the South and so, the blacks rode in the back of the bus. There was segregation in America.
Jim: Okay, so in the ‘50’s.
Eric: Not that long ago. Oh, definitely in the ‘50’s, yeah. And so, the bottom line is, that day for whatever reason, she said no. She knew that this was immoral what was being asked. She was being treated not as a daughter of God should be treated in the United States of America. And she humbly refused to go to the back of the bus.
John: And that was a big, big deal at that moment.
Eric: It was a huge deal and I’ll tell you, the reason I say she humbly refused is because there had been another case like this. I don’t know if it was a year or two earlier, where a girl refused to go to the back of the bus. She was younger, but she was thought of as immoral. I mean, I don’t know if she was pregnant at age 16 or out of wedlock or whatever. She cursed at the bus driver or something. But the point is, that it was a classic bad example.
Rosa Parks was really chosen by the NAACP that, if we’re gonna have a test case, we want that woman, that church woman, that godly woman who is known to be above board and sweet and gracious and has tremendous dignity.
And so, in a way this was halfway planned, right? And so, when she refuses to go to the back of the bus, now the authorities have trouble, because you cannot impugn this woman on her character. You can’t get away with that. This is a woman who is, you know, more than just a churchgoer.
And so, it was December um … uh … ‘55, I guess. That’s right. And so, this led to the Montgomery bus boycotts, because she was such a perfect figure that the whole community rallied around her and said, “You know what? We’re not gonna put up with this anymore. We are going to boycott the buses.” Now guess who rode buses in Montgomery in the ‘50’s.
Eric:All the blacks rode buses. They didn’t have cars or whatever. They rode buses to work in their humble jobs. So, they said, “We’re not gonna ride the buses.”
Now Christians today need to take a lesson out of this story and I say this very sincerely. I hope the right people will hear me now as I speak this. The guts that they had to say, “We’re gonna pay the price. We are going to walk to work. We are going to hitch rides to work. We’re gonna do whatever it takes to bring the system to its knees, because this is an injustice and we are gonna stand up as one.”
And of course, many whites helped, like many women would drive their maids to work because they said, “ I know you’re not gonna ride the bus. You’re not gonna …” Because this was an injustice and they stood as one. They didn’t say, “You know what. I’m busy. Let somebody else take the leadership.” The entire black community for one year, imagine 52 weeks of going to work, not taking a bus because everybody’s agreed we’re not going to do this.
Again, I tell the details in the book, but—
Eric: –it is … it’s monumental, because today if we said to Christians, “Hey, you know what, this law is unjust, so we’re gonna, in a kind way, we’re gonna … we’re gonna boycott this store. We’re not gonna do this. We’re gonna do that. We’re gonna … what … whatever it is. The point is, would people take the trouble?
These African-Americans had suffered for so long and they said, “We’re gonna do it. We have the fire in the belly to stand up for what is right.” Now if they had only stood up for a month or a week, it wouldn’t have worked, but they said, “We’re going to link arms and do what is right and they brought the city to its knees and changes history.
Now this woman, it needs to be said, was a woman of God. She wrote her memoirs not too many years ago, published by Zondervan. She was not just some good woman, some liberal activist. She was a holy Christian woman and many of the leaders, we have forgotten in the Civil Rights Movement in America, they were not liberal activists. They were Christians. They did what they did out of their faith in Jesus.
That in many ways has been lost and I said, we need to remember that Jackie Robinson, who I write about in my7 Menbook, Rosa Parks who I write about in my7 Womenbook, they did what they did out of their faith. This was a Christian movement. The Civil Rights Movement and the Abolitionist Movement 100 years before, was a Christian movement. Don’t let anybody tell you Christians were on the wrong side of history on that issue.
Some people might have been on the wrong side of history, but most serious Christians, they were the ones making history. Rosa Parks is the classic example and most people don’t even know her story. They don’t know that she was a Christian, so that’s why I put her in my book.
Jim: Yeah. Eric, your … your book,7 Womenhas such great examples for all of us, not just women. We have run out of time and this has been a great reminder of those characteristics that great people, because of typically their intense and sincere faith, have done amazing things in the name of God, to right those injustices that you’ve talked about.
Um … it’s been great havin’ you here in New York. Been … really appreciate the fact that we’re here with you. Thanks for bein’ with us, Eric.
Eric: Hey, guys, this is my joy. God bless you and thank you.
John: And that’s how we came to the close for the first part of our conversation with Eric Metaxas on this Best of 2017 Focus on the Family presentation. Join us next time as we get into another of his wonderful books7 Men and the Secret of Their Greatness.
Jim: What an empowering conversation this has been and I hope that you’ll get Eric’s books for yourself and your kids and be inspired. Here at the end of the year, won’t you join us in ministry together by making a donation to the work at Focus on the Family? When you donate, you allow us to share the gospel of Christ with unbelievers, you allow us to help restore broken marriages, equip moms and dads to raise god-honoring kids, to stand for orphans and the pre-born and also to engage the culture in those monumental issues that we face today. So invest and stand in the gap for families with us, be a part of the ministry. Today, when you give generously to the work of Focus on the Family, you can choose between a complimentary copy of either 7 Women or 7 Men. These books will inspire you and you’ll want to share them with your spouse and your children.
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John: Yeah, make that contribution, get your copy of the book from Eric Metaxas and while you’re at the website or have us on the phone, be sure to order a copy of our Best of 2017 collection. It’s available on CD or as a digital download and it has some really great messages from this past year, including Kim Meeder, LeRoy and Kimberly Wagner and the presentation from British evangelist J.John. Those and others on our Best of 2017 collection and you can get that and all of the resources we’ve mentioned and donate as well at focusonthefamily.com/radio or call 800-A-FAMILY.
On behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for listening to Focus on the Family. I’m John Fuller inviting you back next time when we’ll hear more from Eric Metaxas and once again help you and your family thrive in Christ.