One of the reasons Martyrs Mirror has continued to be read by Anabaptists for centuries is because it enlivens and illuminates the Biblical texts. Jesus’ injunction to “love your enemies” (Matt 5:44), for example, takes on new life in the story of Dirk Willems, the Dutch Mennonite who abandoned his escape route to pull a pursuing prison guard out of the ice.

Those individuals and communities who have suffered for their faith join the “cloud of witnesses” that accompanies Christians as they study the Bible. In a prayer entitled “The Grace to be Haunted,” Old Testament scholar Walter Brueggemann identifies the prophets, apostles, saints, and martyrs–both ancient and contemporary–who act as witnesses to the truth and vision of the biblical text across time and geography.

Brueggemann concludes by praying,

And we are their heirs, children, continuers. Give us the freedom to be in their presence.
Give us their innocence before the text.
Most of all, give us the grace to be haunted by them,
haunted as they were by the text,
haunted to newness.
We pray in the haunting name of Jesus. Amen.

What if we would allow the stories of Anabaptists suffering for their faith to haunt us? With their testimonies lurking in the corners of our minds and hearts, how would we read the Bible differently?

Would the memory of the injustices these Anabaptist faced give us new energies to confront the injustices of our own contexts..or does that memory feel like a burden?



Walter Brueggeman, “The grace to be haunted,” in Awed to Heaven, Rooted in Earth: prayers of Walter Brueggeman, ed. Edwin Searcy (Minneapolis, Minnesota: Augsburg Fortress, 2003), 57.


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