Monday, October 15, 2012

October 15, 2012

Anabaptist Martyr Elisabeth Dirks

The early Reformation churches were full of women who dared to march to the beat of a different drum. No longer did they feel compelled to believe in the medieval Catholic Church, with which they had various doctrinal disagreements. Some women, such as Anabaptist Elisabeth Dirks, began life in a heavily Catholic atmosphere but still managed to take a stand for the Reformation. Elisabeth (also known as Lijsken) was from Friesland, a little-known province owned by the Netherlands. Like Martin Luther’s wife Katharina von Bora and many other women who later became committed Protestants, she spent many of her formative childhood years in a convent.

Sometime before adulthood, Elisabeth became inspired by accounts of martyrdom and began to wonder how anyone could love their faith so deeply that they would be willing to die for it. She soon came into possession of a Bible written in her own language. Now there was no going back. This young lady must have been rather outspoken about her disagreements, for her superiors began to suspect that she held contrary views. She finally escaped the convent under the guise of a milkmaid. The first thing she did was to become an official member of the Anabaptist fellowship. It must have been a relief. But it also opened up the door to all kinds of troubles.

Elisabeth settled in the town of Leeuwarden and moved in with a dear friend. She had a close relationship with reformer Menno Simons and was often found by his side. Officials rooted out Elisabeth and her forbidden Bible, and, believing her to be Simons’ wife, arrested her. At that point mistaken identity did not matter. Her faith targeted her whether or not she was who they said she was.

Now came out of those odd instances of “both discovered, one died, one lived.” Elisabeth’s friend somehow managed to flee, but Elisabeth bore an intense trial and many physical torments. Her captors wanted names. She gave none. “No, my Lords, do not press me on this point. Ask me about my faith and I will answer you gladly,” she said. That was all the concession she would make. After harsh words with her captors, where they asked if baptism alone merited salvation, she said, “All the water in the sea cannot save me. All my salvation is in Christ, who has commanded me love the Lord, my God, and my neighbor as myself.”

Even under torture she insisted that her modesty be respected, and, amazingly enough, her captors did her this favor. Finally it was decided that she should be drowned for her beliefs. Elisabeth did not shrink away from the fate which detractors mockingly called “the third baptism.” This horrific punishment was given on May 27th, 1549, yet even now, four hundred and sixty-three years later, her faith and courage are still respected, honored, and cherished.

(c) 2012 Joyously Saved

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