The people of Ireland were what England considered “barbarians”. Up to this date, every missionary effort was not only to Christianize a region, but to civilize as well. To spread not only a Christian mind set, but a culture that was similar to those who were witnessing. But this land…the language was not known. The cultures were not understood. They could not risk sending someone here. But Patrick had lived here among them. He knew their language, he knew their cultures, he knew the people, and he loved them. With these things, he and a small entourage set out to love the people of Ireland.
Through writings that we have from Patrick during his time of ministry in Ireland, we learn things about him. A quote from Thomas Cahill observes that:
“His love for his adopted people shines through his writings, and it is not just a generalized “Christian” benevolence, but a love for individuals as they are….He worries constantly for his people, not just for their spiritual but for their physical welfare…Patrick has become an Irishman.”
It is said that when Patrick spoke to these “pre-Christians”, he spoke with sufficient dynamism to engage the Celtic people who were used to eloquent speakers and splendid storytellers. Patrick’s results suggest that he competed effectively with their indigenous communicators.
The church today has the same call that Patrick felt, when he left “his comfort zone”, and went to a people who needed God’s love. He went among them. Learned their culture, learned their needs, and learned how God loves them.
Reading through this story of Patrick, and even the details of the rest of his life, there are many things for us to learn. But I want to focus on the 3 changes that occurred in Patrick that led to his ministry in Ireland.
First – Patrick got to know God. He didn’t spend hours reading theological journals, he didn’t even have a Bible, and he wasn’t reading Holiness Today. These are all good ways to know about God, and to know God some…but Patrick spent time in the natural revelation of God. He was able to look at the world, the way everything was designed, and see God revealing himself through colors, movement, and life. He spent time listening and watching, and knowing this God.
Second – Patrick came to know the people of Ireland. Through his time in Ireland, Patrick learned their language, their culture. He learned what needs they had as a people, and how they went about fulfilling them. He knew names. He was looked on as an honorable servant, and became trusted among the people he lived with.
Third – Patrick grew to love his captors. These people he lived with. This is something that didn’t begin with his desire to “sell God” to these people, to reap whatever rewards he would receive in Heaven. This came from the desire of Love. As Patrick knew God closer and closer, and as he grew to know the people of Ireland, He developed a God-love for these people. He began to hope and pray for the day they would be saved.
Come back tomorrow for a few final thoughts…