Lyle-Shelton-150x150We live in an age where compromise is everywhere.

Maybe this is why the American author Eric Metaxas penned Seven Men and the Secrets of their Greatness.

By examining the lives of Christian men who furthered the common good, Metaxas wittingly or unwittingly (I suspect the former) draws out common threads in their lives that speak to the need for steel.

Each had their principles sorely tested and prevailed at great personal cost. In the case of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, he withstood at the cost of his life.

Eric Liddell, the fastest sprinter in Scotland, refused to run on Sunday forgoing a certain Olympic gold medal at the 1924 Paris games.

While he loved running he loved God more and lived to glorify him. Sunday was God's.

Liddell wrote: "If I know something to be true, am I prepared to follow it even though it is contrary to what I want (?)...Will I follow if it means being laughed at by friend and foe, or if it means personal financial loss or some kind of hardship?"

These are challenging words to 21st century Christians.

Metaxas comments of Bonheoffer that he did not become a liberal theologican despite studying at Berlin University, a hotbed of liberal thinking.

While Hitler's goal during the 1930s was to slowly infiltrate the church with Nazi ideology, something the overwhelming majority of the German church succumbed to (remember the death camps were unknown at this point), Bonhoeffer refused to let the water of popular culture and politics penetrate his minority 'confessing church'.

As the British marched to confiscate arms and arrest the leaders of the fledgling American Revolution, George Washington wrote to a friend musing: "can a virtuous man hesitate in his choice?"

Neutrality was not an option for the man who went on to defeat the British at Yorktown and become America's first president.

Metaxas reproduces the famous letter the dying revivalist John Wesley wrote to the young British politician William Wilberforce. "O be not weary of well doing," he told the man who went on to lead the world's first political human rights campaign which resulted in the abolition of slavery.

A modern day man featured in the book is Metaxas' (and my) hero the late Chuck Colson.

In 1974 Chuck went to prison for his role as a hatchet man for Richard Nixon in the Watergate scandal.

There he found Christ and began an amazing journey ministering to prisoners and promoting the need for Christian engagement in politics and culture.

One of his last projects was helping to write the Manhattan Declaration which calls for the church to defend the sanctity of human life, traditional marriage, and freedom of religion.

Supporters of ACL will know that all of these issues loom large in today's political debates here in Australia as well.

Those seeking to undermine each of these are well organised and committed. We are sadly less so.

At his funeral in 2012, people wore lapel pins with the words of Colson's motto "stay at your posts".

Metaxas also chronicles the lives of the baseball player Jackie Robinson and the late Pope John Paul II.

As the webcomic Adam Ford pointed out this week, to not take a position is to make a theological statement.

One can't claim to have principles and at the same time be neutral in today's challenging cultural environment.

By reminding us that others have faced political and cultural challenges and prevailed, Metaxas has done today's Christians a great service.

Seven Men is a book for our times.