For the sake of full disclosure, I have to admit that when I heard about 7 Men: And the Secret of Their Greatness, my first reaction was, “What, not one woman?” However, since I am an Eric Metaxas fan, I did ask the adult selector to buy it for the library system and immediately requested it for myself. As soon as I read the thoughtful and impassioned introduction, I realized that Metaxas had a reason for writing about men only and these seven men in particular.
Metaxas believes that we live in an age in which we love to shred our heroes. As a reader and selector of children’s books, I couldn’t agree more. Even children’s biographies these days tend to concentrate on the weaknesses of famous people, gleefully drawing attention to their sins, because everybody loves a public hanging. Metaxas aims to bring us back to finding out what it is about these heroes that is admirable, and in doing so, to find out how men can fulfill their God-given role to use their strength and power in order to protect the ones they love. His goal in each of these short biographies is to illustrate the sacrifice of each man, to point out the critical choice that each of them made when they could have taken the easier, more comfortable road, but made the turn to sacrifice—and therefore, greatness—instead.
Two of the men discussed in this book have been given fuller treatment in Metaxas’ biographies of William Wilberforce and Dietrich Bonhoeffer, but this distillation was a great refresher. Most of us may be surprised at what we didn’t find out in school about George Washington, and Chariots of Fire only tells part of the story about Eric Liddell. Even though I’d heard of Jackie Robinson, sports figures are always a blur to me, so his story was fascinating, and although I was a Catholic at the time that John Paul II became pope, I did not know the full story of his inspiring life. Chuck Colson was such a controversial person, and even though I have read several of his books, I was so young during the Watergate scandal that I’d never been clear on his role in that episode in our history. Metaxas’ chapters on all of these men will bring the reader greater understanding, but they all point to the crucial question: Would their lives have been different if they had made the easier choice, and if so, why didn’t they?
Although this book is interesting and inspiring to all readers, it would be particularly valuable for young men. As C.S. Lewis once said, “We laugh at honour, and are shocked to find traitors in our midst.”* Nourishing the minds of young men on the stories of great heroes may cause them to consider their own lives more carefully and to use their strength to serve others in need, be it their wives and children, the church, or their country. Growing such heroes would be a blessing to us all.
Amy Carmichael and Abigail Adams next time?
*C.S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man.
Disclaimer: I read a library copy of this book. Opinions expressed are solely my own and do not reflect those of my employer or anyone else.