Thursday, March 29, 2012

Patrick of Ireland: Sharing the Gospel with Enemies

Background Check:

     Europe in the fifth century was a chaotic time.  The city of Rome had been sacked by Germanic tribes and all of Western Europe was in disarray.  Vikings from the North and Huns from the East came in to attack the peoples there and they often left as quickly as they came.  Many people were taken as slaves and no central government existed to protect large groups of people.

His Story:
Patrick was a young Christian of 12 who lived in England, when his family was attacked by a group of Irish marauders.  They burned his house, stole his goods and took Patrick as a slave to Ireland.  He worked as a shepherd for six years until he escaped and, with the help of a ship’s captain, returned back to England. 
     In England again, Patrick long remembered his days in Ireland.  He remembered his anger and the injustice he suffered.  He remembered the people, who were little more than barbarians.  But he also realized that much of their roughness and evil ways is due to the fact that no one in Ireland had the gospel.  They didn’t know anything about Jesus.  And so Patrick made the decision that he would return to Ireland, and tell the people there about Jesus.  And he prayed constantly for the people of Ireland, that they might come to know the Lord.
     Patrick went to a missionary “school”—which was actually a monastery—for years and then he was ready to go.  However, the church in England was reluctant to send Patrick because he didn’t know Latin—the language of the church and the educated at the time.  But when their other choice suddenly became sick, Patrick was the only one to send to Ireland, and so Patrick was chosen to go.

Jesus and the Holy Spirit put their own approval on Patrick by allowing him to work miracles—such as finding food when he and a group of travelers were starving after Patrick prayed. (The snake story is just a myth-- Ireland never did have snakes) Patrick did just what Jesus said—he loved his enemies, he preached the gospel to those who did not know it, he made disciples of Jesus wherever he went.  It did take him years of maturity to get to maturity in obedience to Jesus, but for Jesus it was worth the wait.

The Final Word (of men)
     At first when Patrick taught the gospel, he was rejected by the people.  But he remained with these rough people and became their friend.  Over time they listened to the story of Jesus and realized that their peace could come from no other than him.  Soon, hundreds and then thousands of people would flock to listen to Patrick tell about the gospel.  By the time Patrick died, in 461, almost all of Ireland had been baptized and they were now sending missionaries, instead of marauders across the sea to spread the gospel to others.
     Patrick and a few others began a new kind of Christianity—Celtic Christianity.  It remains to this day distinct from Roman, Orthodox and Protestant Christianity, but it is still a great example of a community of Jesus.

A Word From Our Sponsor:
But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.
Luke 6:27-28

Therefore do not fear them, for there is nothing concealed that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. What I tell you in the darkness, speak in the light; and what you hear whispered in your ear, proclaim upon the housetops. Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven.
Matthew 10:26-27, 32

Helpful Hint: Loving Your Enemies 
God's heroes love their enemies, which is radical enough.  But even more than that, they follow Jesus’ example in forgiving their enemies and seeking to reconcile with them.  Patrick made it his life goal to go back to the people who enslaved them and to bring them the gospel.  As we will see later, Peter Waldo sought to reconcile with the Roman Church, even though they were attacking his group.  Elizabeth Elliot went back to the very tribe that killed her husband in order to bring them the gospel.  Desmond Tutu sought to have the persecuting whites confess their sins and be pardoned.  The forgiveness they gave was personal and complete—not just a half-hearted “it’s alright.”  They laid down their lives to be reconciled with their enemies.

Check It Out—
Patrick (a novel) by Stephen Lawhead

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