Kenneth Morse puts it this way in the book Preaching in a Tavern (Brethren Press, 1997): The John Naas story has been told so often that it seems to be more of a legend than an actual story. Although no documentation has yet been discovered, it is so consistent with records about John Naas that Brethren have been inclined to take it as part of their heritage.
Brethren are perhaps most familiar with John Naas through the children's book The Tall Man as written by Dorothy Brandt Davis (Brethren Press, 1963). But the story has been told in a variety of ways over the year.
John Naas was a leader of the brethren church in Germany, first in the Marienborn area by 1714. When the Brethren were expelled in 1715, the Naas family moved to Krefeld where Naas was also an elder of the congregation. As noted yesterday, he and Christian Liebe shared leadership in Krefeld for a period of time until they came to a disagreement and Naas withdrew and eventually came to America.
While in Krefeld, Naas would make evangelistic tours of the surrounding area. According to the stories shared, it was on one such journey that a Naas - a big, strong man - was approached by a recruiter for the King of Prussia to be a part of the army or as a personal bodyguard to the king.
The story goes on to suggest that when Naas refused, he was captured and tortured - even to being hung by a toe and thumb. Still he refused to enlist. When taken before the king, Naas explained that he had already enlisted in the service of the Prince of Peace.
Whether the story of John Naas refusal to serve the King of Prussia is legend or reality, Naas was certainly a leader in the service of his king.
Doesn't it make you wonder what stories, or legends, might be told of you in another 300 years?