The Tale of Two Cobblers


The two brothers grew up in the early 1900’s in a small town outside of Nuremburg, Germany. Their father worked in a shoe factory and when Rudolf, the older of the brothers, graduated he followed his father into the same factory.

His brother, Adolf, (no – not that Adolf), began producing shoes in their mother’s laundry. He got good at it. So good that before the 1936 Olympic games he drove to the Olympic village and convinced Jesse Owens to use them. Owens won his four gold medals with Adolf’s shoes on his feet and suddenly the young shoemaker from Germany became world-renowned. Demand for his shoes exploded and his brother Rudolf quit his job and began working with Adolf. Together they formed the Dassler Brothers Shoe Factory.

Most likely you’ve never heard of the Dassler Brothers Shoe Factory. But I guarantee that you know of, and most likely have worn, shoes made by one of the brothers. You see their business flourished until WWII. With the rise of fascism in their homeland they began to drift apart when Rudolf fell in step with the Nazi party. The rift grew deeper until an Allied bomb raid in 1943 drove a final wedge in between them.

Rudolph and his family had taken cover in a bomb shelter when Adolf and his family also got in. Rudolph muttered, “the dirty bastards are back again.” Rudolph insisted that he was referring to the Allied bombers and not making a snide remark about his brother’s family. Adolf didn’t believe him. The brothers parted ways and never made up.

They both formed competing footwear companies. Adolf, whose nickname was Adi, formed a company called Adidas, – short for Adi Dassler. His brother formed Ruda – short for Rudolph Dassler – which was later rebranded as Puma.

I told you that you had probably worn their shoes.

The division between the brothers didn’t just affect them. The entire town of Herzogenaurach where their shops were located was divided. It became known as “the town of the bent necks” because people were always looking down to see which brand of footwear you were wearing so they could know whose side you were on.

Rudolf died in 1974, Adi followed him four years later. The rift created is one that outlived them, dividing their descendants to this day.

I have done too many funerals where there are rifts between family members. Rifts that have separated people for years, if not decades. Wounds from the past sit like perverted, twisted parrots, squawking remembrance and vengeance into the ears of those who will listen. Like the Dassler brothers, many times the cause of the final rift was small but was the result of other circumstances.

The two people may come together because of the death of a loved one but the air is heavy with resentment. What’s worse, the family becomes a town of “bent necks,” with everyone choosing sides and trying to determine which side the other is on.

If you are a follower of Christ, forgiveness isn’t just a nice thought. It is essential.

In chapter 7 of Completely Reckless I take time to talk about what forgiveness looks like in the life of someone trying to live Recklessly. Let me share an excerpt:

 Perfection is just as much about loving enemies as it is about not murdering. It is about forgiving wrongs as much as it is about not committing adultery. “To follow Jesus in His ministry of com- passion precisely defines the Biblical meaning of being perfect as the heavenly Father is perfect.”

In the gospel of Luke we find another account of the Sermon on the Mount. As I mentioned in the first chapter, it is very telling how Luke records Jesus’ words:

Love your enemies! Do good to them. Lend to them without expecting to be repaid. Then your reward from heaven will be very great, and you will truly be acting as children of the Most High, for he is kind to those who are unthankful and wicked. You must be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate. (6:35-36)

Rather than the word complete or perfect, Luke records the word “compassionate.” Some translations render the word “merciful.” Either way, there is an entirely relational context. Life is meant to be lived in relationship, and part of living in relation-ship is learning to love, even when the other person seems unlove-able.

Are there broken relationships in your life that need mending? Don’t wait until you are standing beside a casket to make amends. Or worse, take them into the casket with you.