Thursday, March 10, 2011

The death of Balthasar Hubmaier

March 10, 1528

483 years ago today, the Anabaptist Balthasar Hubmaier was executed by the government of Ferdinand I, the so-called “Holy Roman Emperor”. Burned to death for his crime of speaking out against infant baptism, he was followed in death by his wife who was drowned by the same authorities three days later.

Hubmaier was a flawed man, as we all are. Unlike many other Anabaptists, he recanted a couple of times and then un-recanted. Given that at least one of these times he was being tortured on the rack (by Protestants) and he lamented his own weakness, he can somewhat be excused. He seemed to be an unhappy fellow but he was a brilliant theologian and preacher of the Gospel to the lost.

We often think of persecution and martyrdom as something that happens to Christians in pagan lands at the hands of Muslims or some tribal people or Communist governments. It is vitally important to remember that for much of Christian history, most Christians were put to death by other people who claimed to be Christians. The persecution, torture and butchery of Christians by other Christians in the name of the Prince of Peace is a terrible stain on the church and we must remember, safe in the cultural Christianity cocoon we live in, that many Christians have gladly given their lives for the cause of Christ and we may someday be called to do the same. It is reported that at the stake Balthasar Hubmaier asked for forgiveness from any he might have offended and offered forgiveness to his enemies. May God grant us strength to be as faithful as those who came before us.

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