Eric Liddell – a modern martyr and model of manhood

Eric Liddell – the unlikely runner whose slice of Olympic glory and moral struggle was portrayed in the well-known movie “Chariots of Fire” – was so much more than “just a one-time Olympic medalist.”

The movie gives glimpses of the real love of his life and the impact of that priority on the whole of his life before and after the 1924 Paris Olympics.  For the Glory: Eric Liddell’s Journey from Olympic Medalist to Modern Martyr by Duncan Hamilton shines a spotlight on “the rest of the story.”

“For the Glory” is an excellent and unflagging telling of Eric Liddell’s life and gets it right, with one caveat: his dedication wasn’t to his church or missionary society, as Hamilton so often refers to it, but to Jesus Christ, and to the Gospel (which means “good news) of Jesus’ life and teachings. The church and missionary society was merely the structure by which his service was rendered possible and useful, and a tangible symbol of his higher devotion. Sometimes symbols are mistaken for the reality they represent.

Other than that parenthetical concern, I loved this biography. I re-read (listening to it read on audio, I kept pressing “replay”) – not because my mind had wandered but because I wanted to hear the words again and again – and sometimes pulled over in the car to write them down before I could move on (literally and emotionally!) When I finished the book I replayed the last two chapters at least twice. The only other time I have been so moved and enraptured with such inspirational eloquence was during certain pivotal passages in Pilgrim’s Progress.

I recommended it to my son-in-law for his commute to work and he loved it as much as I did, and will look for it in a format for his four young sons. Liddell’s life was a model of the kind of servant leadership, the epitome of “a good man,” that he wants his sons to admire and strive to emulate. In spite of [because of?] the lack of 21st-century psychological and self-elevating (narcissistic?) political correctness, Eric Liddell was a 20th-century classic hero, conscientiously striving to model his life of service after that of Jesus – the ultimate of self-sacrificial servant-hearted manhood. “Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”

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