Posted on March 17, 2011 - by Jamie Wamsley
I am starting to really love St. Patrick’s Day, and it’s not because I crave corned beef and cabbage, or feel the need to drink a green beer or even because I have 34% native Irish blood. The reason is because I am inspired by Patrick himself, and I like the idea of setting aside a few moments to celebrate his life. In a time when we seem to lack an abundance of spiritual super heroes, Patrick stands as a giant of the faith. If you’re unfamiliar with his legacy, consider these ten reasons to love the man behind our favorite drinking holiday.
1. He did not allow pain and suffering to push him away from Jesus.
Patrick spent his early years as a child of privilege in Rome-ruled Britain. He was positioned for a life of relative ease until he was abducted as a teenager by pirates and forced into a brutal form of servitude in Ireland. As bad as this experience was, it didn’t cause him to abandon his Christian faith, but rather sparked a process of spiritual transformation that made his Christian faith the very foundation and center of his life.
2. He did not allow the allure of wealth to lead him away from Jesus.
Several years after his abduction, Patrick managed to escape and return to his family in England. The life of privilege that had been lost to him was now once again his for the taking. After all that he had been through, Patrick had every earthly reason in the world to sink back into a safe and comfortable existence, yet he did not go that route. Rather, he chose an incredibly difficult and exceedingly dangerous path – all for the sake of Jesus Christ and those who did not yet know Him.
3. He gave his life to the very people who attempted to steal his life.
After a short season at home, Patrick made the bold/ridiculous/insane decision to return to Ireland, the home of his captors, in order to bring the gospel to a place it had never gone before. His love for the people that had mistreated him was greater than his fear of what those same people might do to him. In terms of authentic Christianity, you just gotta love that.
4. He embraced a culture that was despised by the rest of the ‘civilized’ world.
As crazy as people think the Irish are now, it’s literally nothing compared to how they used to be perceived. Ireland was seen as the last of the completely barbarian civilizations; filled with cannibals who ate their own dead fathers and took advantage of their mothers and sisters. In the broader culture, there was absolutely nothing redeemable, let alone tolerable, about the Irish people. Patrick, to his everlasting credit, refused to allow public opinion to pull him away from what he thought God wanted him to do.
5. He was the first to breach the Roman Curtain.
Patrick is regarded as the first person to take the gospel beyond the borders of the Roman empire. Before him, Christianity had never spread in any significant way beyond the reach of Roman rule and/or occupation. Because of Patrick, Ireland is recognized as “the first country to submit to the teachings of Christ without first submitting to the sword of Rome.”
6. He took on a Christian warlord.
How can you not love a bishop unafraid to take on a warlord? Patrick rightly excommunicated a nominally-Christian British warlord named Coroticus who attacked the Irish coast, killing a group of freshly baptized believers and forcing several others into captivity. Patrick, infuriated by the inaction and religious hypocrisy of his superiors in Britain, took matters into his own hands at great risk to his own personal safety and position – a vivid example of what it means to fear God more than man.
7. He was reprimanded for caring about the unconverted as much as he did believers.
Patrick was punished – by his religious overseers in Britain – for being as concerned with the as of yet unreached people in Ireland as he was with the existing group of Christians on the island. Thankfully, Patrick had the capacity to hear the authoritative voice of God – and was undeterred in his enthusiasm for evangelism by the disapproval of his ‘superiors’.
8. His ministry was driven by his conviction that God transforms the human heart.
Patrick was willing to go to any person, no matter how vile or dangerous or contemptuous they seemed, because he was utterly convinced of God’s readiness to transform the human heart – maybe because of what he had seen God do in his own life. Patrick was literally able to reach thousands and thousands of incredibly lost and deeply sinful people with the message of Jesus precisely because he saw them with God’s eyes, and not his own.
9. He was attempting to fulfill the Great Commission in his lifetime.
This I love. When Patrick set course for Ireland, in all likelihood he thought he was traveling to the far end of the earth and bringing the message of Christ to the world’s last unreached people group. Patrick understood that Christ would not return until gospel was carried to all people everywhere, and he was bent on making that happen.
10. He experienced the miraculous.
Before Patrick’s life was over, he had launched a ministry that would lead to the near total Christianization of that island. Amazingly, his work led to the complete transformation of one of the most uncivilized cultures the world had ever known. Historians have noted that at the precise time Roman lands were descending from peace into chaos, the land of Ireland was rushing even more rapidly from chaos towards peace.
Spiritually-speaking, there is an awful lot to like about St. Patrick’s day, if you remember the guy behind it all. If you want to know even more, I highly recommend ‘Saint Patrick’ by Jonathan Rogers. Most of the information I listed in this blog post is sourced from that book.