Today is St. Patrick’s Day. It ought to mean more than wearing green and drinking beer. For the Christian, the life and witness of Saint Patrick is an inspiration for us today as we face an unbelieving world and collapsing culture.
Consider these things:
- Patrick was born in 380 AD in Scotland (probably). As a teenager he was kidnapped by wild Irish traders and brought to Northern Ireland as a slave. It was this hardship that brought him to consider his own sins and his need for a Savior. He writes in his Confession, “the Lord opened my mind to an awareness of my unbelief, in order that, even so late, I might remember my transgressions and turn with all my heart to the Lord my God, who had regard for my insignificance and pitied my youth and ignorance.”And then, echoing Psalm 139 he wrote, “God watched over me before I knew him, and before I learned sense or even distinguish between good and evil… He protected me.”The hard times in his life and the loneliness of his slavery brought him to face his own sin and cry out for a Father. As the Lord forgave him of his sins, Patrick then forgave his captors. This is what is behind his return to Ireland as a missionary. He was ordained in 432 AD and went back to the “scene of the crime” to bring Christ to the pagans and brutal warlords of Ireland.
This is the power of the gospel. It first saves and then it sends.
- Today, we speak about a personal relationship with Jesus. The famous prayer of St. Patrick, known as the Lorica, or the Breastplate of St. Patrick, shows us what it means to have a personal relationship with Jesus.If you are reading this article silently stopped for a moment. Slow down your thinking to concentrate on the words of this beautiful petition. In my view, there is no more powerful way of praying through the implications of having a personal relationship with Jesus.Read this out loud…to yourself…as a prayer.
Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ on my right, Christ on my left, Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down, Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me, Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks of me, Christ in the eye that sees me, Christ in the ear that hears me.
This is the last part of the longer prayer that could be prayed every day by the Christian. It is deeply powerful and, as you can see, can be very personal and practical.
- We also learn from Saint Patrick that no society is too far gone to be saved. While the Irish culture was dead set against the gospel, Patrick loved the people. He worked among the slave traders…the very people who had captured him decades before. Because of Christ’s work in his life, he didn’t hate the culture he was trying to reach. He loved it. He used his own money to bribe local leaders to allow him passage throughout the country because everything was about the gospel. Getting the gospel out into the lives and hearts of people was his first desire.All this took place while the Roman Empire was collapsing. Ireland was the end of the world and most people had written off this area is one of the least inhabitable portions of the earth. But Patrick believed these people were worth saving. The next years of Patrick’s ministry saw the conversion of well over 100,000 Christians and the establishment of over 300 churches. From this seedbed of the Gospel, other missionaries carried the Gospel to England and the Word of God advanced.Remarkably, when the Roman missionary Bishop Augustine arrived at Canterbury in 597AD, he found evidence of the church already there. The Gospel has already come there…from the north…from the work of Patrick centuries before.
St. Patrick is not a cartoon. He is an icon of what can happen when a God gets a hold of a man. If you are going to drink a beer today, enjoy it. But raise a glass today and offer a toast to the Irish missionary with his own remarkable words:
May the Strength of God guide us.
May the Power of God preserve us.
May the Wisdom of God instruct us.
May the Hand of God protect us.
May the Way of God direct us.
May the Shield of God defend us.
May the Angels of God guard us.
– Against the snares of the evil one.