Who was St. Patrick Anyway?
St. Patrick’s Day is just around the corner, but what’s it all about? Pinches if you aren’t wearing green? Corned beef and cabbage? Three-leaf clovers? When I was in high school, our youth group made pizzas at the church, putting food coloring in the dough to make it green. It didn’t look the greatest, but it tasted good!
Most St. Patrick’s Day traditions are less about the person and more about celebrations of Irish-American immigrants in the late 1700s. St. Patrick, however, was a real man who lived around AD 400, but the folklore we hear doesn’t tell the whole story. His life wasn’t about green beer or driving snakes from Ireland, but about radical love and faith. When we move past the modern traditions, we can see what really happened in St. Patrick’s life and why it matters to us today.
1. We can make it through hard times. Even when we face the most difficult times, we can survive because we’re never separated from God’s love (Romans 8:38-39). When St. Patrick was 16, he was kidnapped by pirates and became a slave to Druids, a violent tribal cult in Ireland. Rather than fighting back, he learned to pray and his faith grew, even while tending sheep in the rugged cold. Records of his life show that he chose to trust God every day instead of seeking revenge against his captors.
2. God invites us to do risky, uncomfortable things. After six years of captivity in Ireland, God showed St. Patrick a way off the island. St. Patrick boarded a ship and returned home. Years later, after learning more about the Bible and becoming a leader in the church, he sensed God leading him to return to Ireland and tell people about Jesus. Just as Patrick listened to God leading him to different places and different tasks, we can listen to God and do what He says (James 1:22). When God calls us to something He walks alongside us.
3. Grace changes enemies into opportunities for radical love. St. Patrick escaped the oppressive slavery of the Druids, but he chose to return to Ireland to share the message of Jesus with them. When God brings us through a difficult experience, we learn to accept His incredible love and extend that same love to everyone. We were all enemies of God because of our sins, but Jesus loves us (Romans 5:10). Jesus’ love forgives offenders and welcomes enemies.
4. God can use anyone — even you. St. Patrick wasn’t born a Christian superhero who rose to fame and changed his country. He wasn’t even Irish. He grew up in a wealthy British family and had no interest in Christianity until he was older. No matter where you’re from or what you have or haven’t done, God can work through you to do something amazing. Philippians 2:13 says, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. God changes unlikely people into unexpected leaders.
Who needs the luck of the Irish when we have a God who can use anybody to continue a movement that affects everybody?
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