We’re one week in to the school year, and my last semester of graduate school starts this week (can you hear the Hallelujah Chorus in the distance?). So before things get too crazy, I wanted to pause and share my review of 7 Men by Eric Metaxas. This is a book I read several years ago after I finished his massive but wonderful biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and it’s also one I recently re-read. If the cover of the book looks familiar, you might remember that I reviewed another of Metaxas’ books, 7 Women, back in January. 7 Women was actually the first book I read this year, and it was both memorable and inspiring. If you didn’t get a chance to read that review several months back, you should check it out now!
7 Men is made up of seven mini-biographies of influential men: George Washington, William Wilberforce, Eric Liddell, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Jackie Robinson, Pope John Paul II, and Chuck Colson. All of these men lived in different time periods and cultures, but they all surrendered their own wants and desires for the higher good. They loved God and served him no matter the cost. I actually thought about these men this morning in church when our pastor said that we shouldn’t allow any cost to keep us from the call God has placed on our lives. From the first chapter to the last, Metaxas shows how these men did just that. They didn’t let any cost or consequence stand in their way.
I enjoyed all of these biographies, but my favorites were Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Eric Liddell. Bonhoeffer, of course, holds a special place in my heart simply because I read Metaxas’ biography of him and was incredibly moved and convicted by Bonhoeffer’s story. Eric Liddell stands out to me because so little of his real life story is shared. He’s the subject of the movie Chariots of Fire, but after his famous Olympic race he became a missionary to China, eventually dying in an internment camp there. To read about his sacrificial love for others and his willingness to be a servant leader was really inspiring.
But I’ll admit, there’s also another reason for this post, besides the fact that I recently finished listening to the audio version of this book. This year, I required my ninth graders to read Metaxas’ books as part of their summer reading assignment. The boys read 7 Men and the girls read 7 Women. There’s even a bulletin board in my classroom with images of all fourteen of the people in these two books.looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1-2)
I chose these books for my students for a few reasons. First, I really love Metaxas’ defense and definition of biblical manhood and womanhood in the introduction of the books. That’s a touchy subject these days, but he provides a strong foundation for celebrating the inherent differences between men and women right there in the opening pages of each book.
Second, I chose these books because it seems that role models are few and far between–and that’s not just role models for teenagers, I mean role models for any of us. The seven men and seven women in these books are role models not because they were perfect individuals, but because they exhibited a desire to serve others before themselves, just like Jesus did. I told my students on the first day of school that my goal wasn’t for them to relate to every single man or woman in the book, but to at least find one or two they were interested in. After hearing their discussions, it seems like they accomplished that goal! It’s my hope that as the semester continues and we look more closely at these biographies, my students will see just how transformative the power of Jesus was in these men and women’s lives.
Thirdly, I chose these books because they seem to be just the right amount of nonfiction. Whether you’re a ninth grader or you’re just someone who doesn’t really love to read, these books are almost like reader’s digest biographies–in the best sense of that phrase. Each chapter is short enough to read in about an hour, they cover all the important aspects of each person’s life, and they pull out the most important spiritual truths we can learn from each man or woman. The best part is that Metaxas doesn’t sacrifice literary style for the sake of historical facts–the chapters are easy to read and not stiff or overly academic, like some biographies.
So, if you’re looking for a biography to ease you into the world of nonfiction books, if you’re looking for a role model, or if you just want to follow along with my students, I’d highly recommend these books. These seven men and seven women are people we ought to know more about. We should be sharing their stories and looking up to them as members of that great cloud of witnesses that surrounds us.